Pujara, Vijay save the day for India

Defending solidly and driving with fluency, authority and footwork, Pujara, batting on 130, was at the heart of an Indian fightback at the JSCA Stadium here on Saturday.

Pujara accelerated in style to complete his century.   -  K. R. Deepak

Sometimes small technical adjustments can make a big difference. Take the case of Cheteshwar Pujara and his stance. He is more relaxed and comfortable in his stance these days. Importantly, he is also more upright.

Earlier, he used to crouch and this, resultantly, affected his transfer of weight and movement, particularly on to the back foot.

Scorecard

He was putting more weight on his front leg and his bat was coming down from a wider angle. More upright now, his willow is travelling down straighter.

Defending solidly and driving with fluency, authority and footwork, Pujara, batting on 130, was at the heart of an Indian fightback at the JSCA Stadium here on Saturday.

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And the host, replying to Australia’s 451, progressed to 360 for six at stumps on the third day of the third Test.

On a surface still playing good but for the odd delivery keeping low, the contest in the middle was intense. Australia bowled tight in the first hour before India broke free. The host gained some momentum in the middle session but the visitor came back in the third.

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For the Indians, Pujara, concentrating hard, was the hub. He got himself into lovely positions for his drives and flicks and excelled with his shots down the ground. The right-hander also cut and punched off the back foot.

For Australia, Pat Cummins bowled with fire and velocity on this surface to scalp four; he used his high-arm release to extract bounce. He has a rock-back in his action and employs the non-bowling arm effectively to generate speed.

The second-wicket partnership of 102 between Pujara and opener Murali Vijay (82) was the highest of the day.

The two Indians handled spinners Nathan Lyon and O’Keefe with feet movement and confidence in the second hour of the morning; the Aussies choked runs in the first.

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Both Vijay and Pujara went right forward or travelled deep into the crease after picking the length. They stepped out and when the spinners, resultantly, pitched shorter, rocked back.

The spinners were whipped and punched off the back-foot. When the batsmen play the ball late off the back-foot, the spinners are at a definite disadvantage.

Vijay also employed the sweep shot effectively, particularly against Lyon and slog-swept O’ Keefe. This stroke, if executed properly, prevents spinners from settling into a rhythm and disrupts their line.

Organised at the crease with his movements measured, Vijay seemed on course for a hundred. But then, in a rush of blood, he jumped out to O’Keefe in the final over before lunch to be stumped.

After lunch, the red hot Cummins took out a tentative Virat Kohli – the Indian captain had walked in after undergoing a net session under coach Anil Kumble – who followed and nicked a widish delivery to the slip cordon.

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Then, Cummins removed Ajinkya Rahane – the Indian could have left the widish lifter alone - with the second new ball. The paceman returned to dismiss Ashwin with another rising delivery that kissed the gloves.

With the spinners handled capably by the Indians, the Aussie pacemen kept the visitor in the game. Josh Hazelwood, followed the two-card trick, sending down a reverse swinging delivery after a bouncer to castle Karun Nair.

DRS came under spotlight again. On 22, Pujara survived a vociferous shout for leg-before when he played for spin from O’Keefe and saw the ball go through straight. The appeal was turned down, the Australians reviewed, and replays were inclusive about the ball striking the pad first. 

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The Australians ran out of reviews and Vijay might have been caught bat-pad in the next over sent down by Lyon. DRS continues to rear its head in the series. And the umpires are coming under increasing pressure.

Pujara, though, appeared to be under no stress, producing the first hundred by an Indian in this series. He is on the ball all right.