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PIX: Pujara leads India's fightback with gutsy knock

Last updated on: August 27, 2021 23:44 IST
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Images from Day 3 of the third Test between England and India, at Headingley, Leeds, on Friday.

India's Cheteshwar Pujara drives for some runs during Day 3 of the third Test against England, at Emerald Headingley stadium in Leeds, on Friday.

IMAGE: India's Cheteshwar Pujara drives for some runs during Day 3 of the third Test against England, at Emerald Headingley stadium in Leeds, on Friday. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Cheteshwar Pujara played one of his most aggressive knocks as India’s top order showed plenty of resolve to end Day 3 in the third Test against England on 215 for 2 in the second innings, at Headingley, Leeds, on Friday.

The under-fire batsman, who has been pilloried of late for his ultra-defensive approach and castigated for not showing enough "intent", smashed 16 boundaries in an unbeaten 91 off 180 balls to enable India end the day 139 runs in arrears of England’s first innings total.

 

His gutsy knock overshadowed the batting of megastars Virat Kohli (45 not out) and the supremely-talented Rohit Sharma (59).

Friday was one of those days when the cricketing gods were on Pujara’s side. He has already done enough to give his career a new lease of life.

India captain Virat Kohli bats during Day 3 of the third Test against England

IMAGE: India skipper Virat Kohli sends the ball to the boundary during his unbeaten knock of 45. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

With two days left in the game, England still remain favourites despite the pitch being good for batting as India still need 139 runs to avoid an innings defeat, after the hosts scored 432 in their first innings to gain a mammoth 354-run lead.

If Rohit's (59 off 156 balls) near-impregnable defence during the first hour in all games has been a revelation in this series, Pujara's array of attacking stokes would have left his critics and fans amazed.

During the pair's 82-run stand, after K L Rahul's dismissal at the stroke of lunch, it was Pujara who looked the more aggressive of two with strokes, which helped Rohit play as per his own strategy.

England pacer Ollie Robinson celebrates after capturing the wicket of Rohit Sharma.

IMAGE: England pacer Ollie Robinson celebrates after capturing the wicket of Rohit Sharma. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

It did help that the normally accurate James Anderson (19-8-51-0) fed him with freebies on his pads to give him a head start, but very rarely would one find the man from Saurashtra playing a pull shot off Ollie Robinson (18-4-40-1) to complete a half-century, which was a big statement for his detractors.

A generous applause from his skipper Kohli (45 not out off 94 balls) was an indication what Pujara's return to form meant for the team in general.

The typical Pujara square cut, which had gone extinct, was brought out of the closet and there was also the cover drive that can enhance the confidence of any player.

Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his fifty.

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his fifty. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

The best part was Pujara's "intent" of running the singles and doubles to keep the scoreboard moving.

It seemed that there was a lot of pent-up anger in him about always being the "fall guy" whose place is questioned in the side despite the fact that others also go through poor run of form.

This innings will not only shut the critics up but also raise his confidence level which is so important for this Indian batting line-up.

An innings of this quality against a good England seam bowling line-up on a day when the red Dukes swung more would certainly be among one of his top knocks.

Cheteshwar Pujara plays the ramp shot for a boundary.

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara plays the ramp shot for a boundary. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Rahul Dravid's 148 on a first day track at Headingley in 2002 remains immortal but Pujara has done enough already for his innings to be discussed in times to come. It was a classic example of how one can change his mindset when pushed back to the wall.

His partnership of 99 with skipper Kohli has raised visions that India will not give up without a proper fight in the next two days.

There were those crushing cover drives that raced to the boundary off Kohli's blade and he ensured that his bat remained closed to his body while dealing with those bowled in the corridor of uncertainty.

Once the light deteriorated, Kohli, for good measure, pulled opposite number Joe Root's friendly off-break to the boundary. Pujara wasn't ready to be left behind as he got a four with a similar shot off Moeen Ali.

Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant's role in the next two days will be equally important if India comes anywhere near to saving this Test match.

Morning session:

Jonny Bairstow is congratulated by bowler Craig Overton and his England teammates after taking the catch to dismiss opener K L Rahul in India's second innings, on Day 3 of the third Test, at Emerald Headingley stadium, on Friday.

IMAGE: Jonny Bairstow is congratulated by bowler Craig Overton and his England teammates after taking the catch to dismiss opener K L Rahul in India's second innings. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Earlier, India lost opener K L Rahul at the stroke of lunch and were 34 for 1 in their second innings as they set out to save the third Test, after conceding a huge 354-run first-innings lead.

Rohit Sharma was unbeaten on 25 off 61 balls at the break, with the visitors still 320 runs in arrears.

Rahul (8 off 54 balls) faced some quality seam bowling before Jonny Bairstow pulled off an incredible one-handed stunner off Craig Overton (5-2-5-1) to hurt India, who still have to bat eight sessions (two days and two sessions).

In the morning, Mohammed Shami (4/95 in 28 overs) and Jasprit Bumrah (2/59 in 27.2 overs) polished off the tail for the addition of just nine more runs to the overnight score, as England’s first essay ended on 432.

England's Ollie Robinson is bowled by India pacer Jasprit Bumrah.

IMAGE: England's Ollie Robinson is bowled by India pacer Jasprit Bumrah. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

England, who began the day at 423 for 8, batted for just 3.2 overs in the morning session as Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah dismissed Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson respectively finished off the innings quickly.

Rahul had earlier successfully won a DRS against a leg-before decision off Ollie Robinson's (8-1-17-0) bowling; the replays showed that the ball was missing the leg stump, much to the delight of the India dressing room.

India's players watch the big screen as England's Craig Overton takes the review during Day 3.

IMAGE: India's players watch the big screen as England's Craig Overton takes the review during Day 3. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

However, the exaggerated off the pitch movement and help from the cloud cover over the Headingley skyline meant that James Anderson (5-2-8-0) could get the ball to nip back in the air, and then, with a pronounced outward movement beat the outside edge time and again.

To the batsman's credit, he actually didn't dangle his bat towards the movement and hence didn't get an outside edge.

Scoring runs wasn't the easiest of jobs, with all three England seamers hitting the deck on the tight off-stump channel, but Rahul, after a first innings duck, looked more intent on taking care of his defence as he kept the bat close to his body.

Rohit Sharma

IMAGE: India opener Rohit Sharma hits a delivery from Ollie Robinson for six over third man. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

That was one of the reasons that the wicket taking edges off the first innings turned into luckless deliveries in the second till Overton induced him to play one that straightened and the edge flew to second slip.

At the other end, Rohit mostly left what was bowled outside the off-stump, save a rising delivery off which he got a six by merely using the pace to guide it over third-man.

The six did help raise his confidence, as he clipped a Sam Curran delivery on his pads towards mid-wicket for a boundary.

It's still a long way to go before India can save the match but the two openers did well to see off the new ball.

Post-Lunch session:

India opener Rohit Sharma waves to the dressing room to celebrate scoring 50 in the second innings

IMAGE: Opener Rohit Sharma waves to the dressing room in a subdued celebration after scoring 50 in India’s second innings. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Rohit Sharma again displayed good technique and temperament to bring up his second half-century of the series, even as Cheteshwar Pujara punished the loose deliveries, to guide India to 112 for 1 at tea. 

Rohit, who registered his 14th Test half-century, was batting on 59 off 142 balls at the break. He added 78 runs with under-pressure batsman Pujara, who was also unbeaten on 40 off 72 balls, which included seven boundaries.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma run between the wickets during their unbroken 78-run partnership before the tea break.

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma run between the wickets during their unbroken 78-run partnership before the tea break. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

However, having conceded a mammoth 354-run lead after their dismal first-innings score of 78, and with 242 runs in arrears, India still have a long way to go before they are out of the woods.

Batting conditions were not difficult even though England’s pacers bowled better lines during both sessions of Day 3.

Ollie Robinson delivered the maximum unplayable balls before going to lunch with figures of 13-3-31-0.

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