SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Cheteshwar Pujara fell for an exquisite 193 on the second day of the fourth and final test against Australia yesterday, as the tourists reached an imposing 486-6 at press time in day two.
Australia were largely frustrated in their hopes of making major inroads into India’s batting order on another sunny morning at the Sydney Cricket Ground, even if they were able to remove Hanuma Vihari for 42.
Pujara, who added 51 runs to his overnight tally, was joined at the crease by Rishabh Pant looking to help bat the home side out of a match India only need to draw to secure a first series victory in Australia.
Centuries from Pujara at Adelaide and Melbourne helped India to the wins that gave them their 2-1 advantage in the series and the number three batsman gave the Australian attack virtually no chances to end his innings.
The 30-year-old eked out runs at his now familiar pace in his now familiar style and reached the 150 mark with an extra cover drive for only the 18th four of his innings.
That boundary also brought up the century partnership with Vihari but Australia soon had the breakthrough they had hoped would come a little earlier.
Vihari, who was moved down the order to replace the absent Rohit Sharma, shaped for a sweep shot off Nathan Lyon but only succeeded in nicking the ball off the bat to his arm and onto Marnus Labuschagne at short leg.
The batsman reviewed the decision but the technology showed the slightest of contact with the bat and Vihari was gone having added just three runs to his overnight tally.
Pant, who survived an Australian review of a caught behind appeal early in his innings, showed more inclination than Vihari to take the strike and had already built a 60-run partnership with Pujara by lunch.
On day one, Pujara put Australia to the sword with an unbeaten 130 in India’s 303 for four.
The hosts, desperately scrapping to avoid being the first Australia team to lose a series to India on home soil, had their successes and managed to dislodge Mayank Agarwal after a bright 77, Virat Kohli for 23 and Ajinkya Rahane for 18.
Australia’s bowlers laboured manfully on a hot day but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that they were firmly behind the eight-ball from the moment Tim Paine lost the toss.
India have never lost a test match when Kohli has won the toss — winning 18 and drawing three — but more importantly the tourists had the opportunity to bat the Australians out of the game as they did in Melbourne.
Josh Hazlewood struck early on a wicket with a greenish tinge to remove KL Rahul for nine but that only brought Pujara to the crease to join Agarwal, the senior man initially happy to let the opener take the scoring load.
Agarwal faced some hostile short bowling from the Australian pacemen, brushing off blows to his elbow and helmet as Mitchell Starc, in particular, gave him a thorough going over.
After adding a second half century to add to his first on debut in Melbourne, the 27-year-old opened up with a couple of sixes off Nathan Lyon only to hole out to Starc at long-on going for a third.
Kohli announced his arrival at the crease with a four punched through extra cover but fell straight after tea when a Hazlewood delivery down the leg side caught his glove and flew to Paine behind the stumps.
Left-armer Starc has come under some criticism for his bowling in this series but there was nothing wrong with the angled bouncer that accounted for Rahane, who also gloved behind to Paine.
Pujara, meanwhile, had no time for too many expansive strokes and it summed up his innings that his 18th test century came up when he swatted the 199th ball he faced to fine-leg and it just about reached the boundary rope for his 13th four.
“He was classy, wasn’t he? His time, his patience, he was just very good,” said Australia batsman Marnus Labuschagne, whose part-time spin bowling took a bit of a battering from Pujara.