Pujara, Saha tons crush Australia

Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha scored hundreds to gain a formidable lead against Australia. Then, Ravindra Jadeja struck twice in the last hour of the day to put India in command.

Cheteshwar Pujara played the longest innings by an Indian batsman while making his third double ton in Tests.   -  PTI

It was a rather dark and cloudy day. There was a little nip in the air and the game was in the balance.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Out in the middle, Cheteshwar Pujara’s commitment shone like headlights on an unlit highway. The man backs his technique with immense heart.

Ranchi Test: Day four in pictures

No Indian has played more deliveries in a Test innings than Pujara’s 525 here. This was no mere number; more a statement of intent.

And, the slightly built Wriddhiman Saha, who adds considerable weight to the Indian lower order, joined forces with Pujara in a partnership that may have inflict psychological scars on this Aussie attack.

The resolute Pujara made 202 (21x4) – his third Test double century – and Saha came up with a typically feisty 117 (233b, 8x4, 1x6), his third Test century.

As play drew to a close, the mercurial Ravindra Jadeja — after smashing an unbeaten half-century filled with typical aggression — pitched the ball on the rough outside the left-handed David Warner’s off-stump. The ball spun in to castle the Aussie opener.

Virat Kohli celebrated by rubbing his still-on-the-mend right shoulder — which has been under considerable focus for various reasons — with glee.

Soon, night-watchman Nathan Lyon was flummoxed by Jadeja’s left-arm spin and the Indians were full of beans as they walked back to the dressing room. How this game has turned!

In a contest that has gathered steam going into the last stretch, Australia, trailing by 152 runs in the first innings, ended day four of the third Test at a worrying 23 for two.

Batting on the final day demands technique and application. With three more left-handers in the Australian top seven, Jadeja is bound to further exploit the rough outside their off-stump, and create more trouble.

Earlier, Pujara and Saha seemed to bat for eternity, reviving memories of an epic day from 2001 at the Eden Gardens when the Aussies drew a blank.

This time Pujara and Saha kept the Aussies frustrated and wicket-less in the first two sessions of day four, adding 199 valuable runs for the seventh wicket from 466 deliveries. For the first time in the series, the Aussie attack appeared flattened.

The Aussies gradually lost the plot. Josh Hazlewood, who should have bowled a fuller length and attempted to swing the ball under a cloud cover, began pitching short and entered into a verbal duel with both Pujara and Saha. The two Indians were unflustered.

Pat Cummins bowled with some venom but Pujara blunted the pacer with his resolute defence, collecting runs with deft placements. 

The feature of the Indian innings was how well Pujara played the Aussie spinners. He went right forward or travelled deep into the crease after picking the length. Pujara also made the spinners alter their length, stepping out, and then when the ball was consequently pitched shorter, cutting and punching off the back-foot.

He played the ball late off the back-foot, gauging the extent of turn which meant the spinners were at a definite disadvantage. When Lyon spun the ball into the Saurashtra batsman, Pujara went back and whipped the ball along with the turn. Despite the presence of a short-leg, it was a well thought out ploy as Pujara kept going hard at the ball.

The Indians had a definite gameplan against the Lyon and O’Keefe in this innings. They have also been adept with the sweep shot, such a critical aspect in playing spin.

In the morning, Saha had his ways with DRS on leg-before appeals – he was adjudged out by on-field umpire to first Cummins and then Lyon – but replays saved him on both occasions.   

It was a fighting innings from Saha. He has an organised, compact game, plays close to his body and is particularly strong between cover and point — driving, punching and cutting.

The host lost wickets going for runs in the final session but it was all India here on Sunday.