Bharat hits hundred as host edges ahead

India A wicketkeeper-batsman K.S. Bharat lights up day three with magnificent ton, Australia A loses two quick wickets at stumps.

Having survived the early jitters, Bharat unfurled a flurry of good-looking shots against a quality Australian bowling attack.   -  SUDHAKARA JAIN

The four-day Test between India A and Australia A is on the tenterhooks, after the visitor lost two quick wickets to finish day three on 38/2. India racked up a 159-run lead after getting all out for a massive 505. Peter Handscomb and Travis Head saw Australia through to stumps.

K.S. Bharat (101, 175b, 6x1, 4x12) was the star performer of the day, roaring in jubilation as he pulled Chris Tremain (3 for 41) towards third-man for a single to bring up a brilliant century — India's first of the series — off 175 balls.

The wicket-keeper batsman spearheaded India's batting as the host made the opposition bowlers toil in overcast conditions.

Bharat overcomes nerves

Bharat was slightly tentative at the start; M. Neser (0 for 42) drawing an edge from him, only for the ball to fall just short of Mitchell Marsh at second slip.

However, having survived the early jitters, Bharat unfurled a flurry of good-looking shots. Brendan Doggett (1 for 101) was at the receiving end of most of those. In one over, he dispatched two back-to-back short deliveries off the Queensland pacer — both in the deep square leg region — for a six and a four.

He brought up his fifty off 84 balls with a cover-drive off Doggett and then stepped out the very next delivery to lift him over mid-off for four.

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Bharat and Kuldeep Yadav (52, 112b, 4x5) stitched a 113-run partnership for the eighth wicket as India A stretched its lead past 100.

Kuldeep, too, impressed with his batting, bringing up his fifty off 102 balls. His innings was studded with five boundaries, which included a delectable cover-drive off leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson. He was out caught behind off Tremain.

Gill's battle of attrition

Earlier, there was a brief passage of play during the morning session that turned into a battle of attrition between Australia and young right-hander Shubman Gill (50, 74b, 4x7).

Gill faced Swepson (1 for 121) with slip, leg-slip, gully and short-leg breathing down his neck.

Swepson began by bowling a negative line and was even called wide on one occasion. But he had kept Gill quiet, who was happy to shoulder arms most of the time while padding away the odd deliveries.

But the more time Gill spent in the middle, the more his confidence grew. Off one Doggett over, he deliberately opened the face of the bat and forced the ball through the vacant slip region for four. Moments later, he was at it again — this time, standing tall and cutting a short ball past backward point for another boundary.

The duel between fast bowler Tremain and Gill was particularly enticing, with Tremain resorting to the short ball against the U-19 star.

Gill was shaping up for a pull shot when a Tremain delivery didn't climb up and pinged him on the pad. Tremain stared down the batsman before walking back to his mark. Next ball, Gill played a handsome looking straight-drive to set the record straight.

The Punjab batsman brought up his fifty off 74 balls before Tremain clean-bowled him with a ball moving away off the seam.

Meanwhile, all-rounder Marsh (1 for 50) bowled eight overs on Monday and even cleaned up India A skipper Shreyas Iyer.

Swepson and Agar bowled majority of the overs, with the latter sending down a staggering 45 overs.

The backfoot ploy

"Our ploy, this tour, has been to push the Indian batsmen back. They're such good players on the front foot that they can play the ball anywhere they want. We felt that by forcing them to go on the backfoot, we could contain them. But if you look at Bharat, he obviously tweaked his game to counter the plan. I would say the Indian batsmen played us better here (Alur) than they did in Bangalore."

— Chris Tremain, Bowler, Australia A