The Adelaide wicket has been a mighty challenge for both India and Australia batsmen. Run-scoring has been difficult on this deck. It has demanded the highest form of application from the batsmen in order to flourish. Cheteshwar Pujara’s century in the first innings was the key between both the sides and the Saurashtra right-hander’s solid 40 in the second innings has boosted India’s lead to 166 at the end of day 3 of the first Test between India and Australia on Saturday. After rain interrupted the start of play, India managed a slender but vital 15-run lead despite the best efforts of Travis Head.
The left-hander, playing in his first Test at home, showed tremendous application and with the tail, he slowly chipped away at the deficit. Mitchell Starc was the first casualty as he drove at a full ball from Jasprit Bumrah to depart for 10. However, Nathan Lyon showed some enterprise and struck some clean blows. Lyon presented the full face of the bat and preferred the straight drive to balls that were full and punished anything that was short. When the offspinner hit Mohammed Shami for a six, it looked like Australia would take the lead. However, Shami struck in quick succession by removing Head for 72 and Josh Hazlewood first ball, both edging to Rishabh Pant.
In the process, Pant matched MS Dhoni’s record and became only the fourth Indian keeperafter Wriddhiman Saha, Syed Kirmani and Dhoni to effect six dismissals. Armed with a 15-run lead, the onus was on India’s struggling opening pair of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay to weather the storm.
After another afternoon shower forced play to be delayed by 20 minutes, both Vijay and Rahul focused on survival. Hazlewood and Starc were getting appreciable swing and bounce and the run-rate was less than one in the initial seven overs.
Rahul decided to take some risks and decided to target Pat Cummins. He missed a straight drive and then edged over the slips to show his intent. It paid off in style when the right-hander lofted the pace bowler inside out over deep extra cover for a glorious six. Rahul notched up the fifty-run opening partnership with a magnificent drive through cover and this assault upset Australia’s plan. However, the 62-run stand was broken when Starc drew Vijay (18) into the drive and the edge was taken by Peter Handscomb at slip.
Pujara joined Rahul and the duo set about steadying the ship. The Saurashtra batsman was given out caught behind but he reversed it on review. Rahul, though, perished playing a loose drive to Hazlewood to miss out on his fifty. Kohli, who looked to make amends for his failure in the first innings, adopted Pujara’s patient approach and continued to frustrate the Australia bowlers.
Pujara solid again
The Indian skipper went past 1000 runs in Tests in Australia, joining Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid to have achieved this feat. As the day progressed, stroke-making became even more difficult. Pujara was given out LBW but he managed to again overturn the decision on review. Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins maintained the pressure and it demanded superb application from both Pujara and Kohli to survive. However, with just four overs to go, Lyon managed to get an offbreak to jump up and the Indian skipper inside-edged the delivery to short leg to depart for 34. However, Pujara held firm and this contribution could make the difference in India winning this Test.