Cheteshwar Pujara had deflated the Australian bowlers with his third ton of the series. Rishabh Pant’s historic knock, combined with a record partnership with Ravindra Jadeja, knocked the stuffing out of Tim Paine’s side on day 2. Pujara’s 193, combined with Pant’s historic 159* and 204-run stand with Jadeja boosted India to 622/7 declared, their second-highest score in Tests in Australia and it put them one step closer to achieving history. For India, it was a day of records. For Australia, it was yet another day in their decline. No nation has ever lost a Test after crossing 600 and India took one step closer to breaking their hoodoo Down Under after stumps on day 2 of the fourth Test.
Pujara continued with the blueprint that had given him tremendous success on the tour, which was to play out the first hour and negotiate the second new ball. The Saurashtra right-hander went past 150 but Australia struck when Hanuma Vihari (42) looked to sweep Nathan Lyon but got a glove which was taken at short leg. India opted for the review and replays showed a spike on Real Time Snicko. However, that was the last success Australia would get in the first session as Pant joined Pujara to further India’s advantage.
It was Pant who signaled his intentions by hammering two boundaries off Mitchell Starc while Pujara buckled down and looked to rotate the strike. The combination of aggression and defence helped India gain momentum. Pujara survived a life on 192 when he looked to late-cut a delivery which leapt up from Lyon but the sharp chance was spilled by Usman Khawaja at slip. However, Pujara missed out on an opportunity for a double century when he was beaten in the flight and he ended up chipping a return catch back to Lyon. The reception from the Sydney crowd acknowledged the contributions of a player whose efforts have gone a long way in India securing a slice of history.
Pant goes ballistic
Following the departure of Pujara, Pant and Jadeja adopted a rather cautious approach as India eyed a big total. The pacers employed the short-pitched barrage but with Jadeja getting his eye in, he broke the shackles by launching Pat Cummins over long on for a big six. Pant made smooth progress to the 80s and he notched up a special milestone immediately after the tea break when he slogged legspinner Marnus Labschagne to deep midwicket to bring up his second century.
Pant’s knock was special in many ways. Pant became the first Indian wicketkeeper in history to score a century in a Test in Australia. The previous best was 89 by Farokh Engineer in the first Test in Adelaide in 1967. With his second century, Pant became the first Indian keeper ever to hit two centuries overseas. His previous century was in The Oval Test against England when he hit 114. Pant joined an elite list of wicketkeepers who has scored more than two centuries in overseas Tests, with Moin Khan and Mushfiqur Rahim the others. The Delhi keeper is the only Asian keeper to have hit a century Down Under.
After reaching the landmark, Pant and Jadeja tore into the Australian bowling. Jadeja hammered four boundaries in one over of Cummins as India went past 600. Pant became the first Indian keeper to hit a 150+ score in an away Test and the partnership with Jadeja went past 200 for the seventh wicket. Virat Kohli was waiting for Jadeja’s century but once he was cleaned up by Lyon for 81, Kohli immediately declared.
Australia had a tricky period of 45 minutes to negotiate and Usman Khawaja benefited when he edged Mohammed Shami on 0 only for Pant to drop the catch. Khawaja yet again survived when he inside edged a quick ball from Kuldeep Yadav as Australia ended on 24/0. Pujara and Pant’s performance has given Kohli the license to go for the kill on the remaining days of the match.