Cheteshwar Pujara continued his magnificent form in the current series against Australia as he hit his 21st fifty and his second in this tour as India made solid progress in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Pujara shared a partnership of 83 with Mayank Agarwal, who shone on his debut with a fantastic 76. Although Agarwal fell in the last over before the tea break, the Saurashtra right-hander forged a magnificent fifty-plus stand with India skipper Virat Kohli as India made good progress after the Indian skipper won an important toss and chose to bat first on an MCG deck good for batting.
Pujara was cautious to get off the mark and he took his time to get his eye in. The right-hander did not attempt any audacious shot and focused on grinding the Australian bowlers down on a wicket which was getting better to bat on as the day progressed. Pujara got going in style as he struck his first boundary by driving Pat Cummins down the ground to the long on fence. The Indian No.3 continued to tackle the short-pitched barrage from Cummins and Mitchell Starc well as the likes of Agarwal and Kohli dominated the bowling.
The Saurashtra player continued to grow in confidence as he drilled Josh Hazlewood down the ground for another boundary to long off but the shot of the day was a fierce upper-cut to a bouncer from Starc as the left-hander struggled for control and rhythm. Pujara notched up his fifty by dabbing a short ball from Mitchell Marsh to backward point for a single as India looked to post a big score in the Melbourne Test.
Pujara has been pivotal to India’s fortunes in the Australia series. In Adelaide, he hit 123 and 71 in the two innings to help India win the Test by 31 runs. After a failure in Perth where he hung in but could not capitalise, Pujara made it count in the Melbourne match with a splendid knock that has laid the platform for India for a solid score.
In the 2018 season, Pujara has played some pivotal knocks that have helped India to a win. In the Johannesburg Test, he took more than 50 balls to get off the mark but his knock of 50 laid the base for India to secure a consolation win. In Trent Bridge, his 72 was vital as India came back in the series against England with a win but in the Southampton Test, he smashed a brilliant century but it was not enough as India lost the match and the series. India will be hoping that Pujara’s knock in Melbourne gives India the ultimate advantage in their quest to win a series for the first time in Australia.