India vs Australia, 3rd Test: Visitors must get Cheteshwar Pujara early to snatch crucial first-innings lead on Day 4
Australia must get in-form Cheteshwar Pujara early to claw back into the game with a lead of 30-40 runs on Day 4. The onus will be on Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood to clean the mess in the morning session
On a day where Austraila had to bag wickets to put India under pressure, they managed to take just five. The stage was set for Pat Cummins and Cheteshwar Pujara showdown but it was Murali Vijay who continued to take on the pace and spin attack during the morning session. India ended the third day trailing by 91 runs, managing to put up a total of 360 with the loss of six wickets. The hosts would be satisfied with the outcome of Day 3 but the visitors left the pitch thinking about how to stop the resilience shown by Pujara throughout the day.
It looked like the hosts were set to add pressure on their opponents until Vijay was stumped by Mathew Wade on 82. Soon after his dismissal, Indian skipper Virat Kohli walked onto the field post lunch after suffering a shoulder injury on the first day. Cummins took the second new ball and Kohli was forced to walk back after his attempt for a drive landed straight into the hands of Steve Smith.
The visitors found themselves smelling blood when Rahane edged a reckless uppercut to depart cheaply. However, Pujara showed why his batting prowess is compared to the legendary Rahul Dravid. His batting showed glimpses of Smith - who single-handedly dominated the Indian bowlers on Day 2. Karun Nair started pretty well and the pressure was mounting yet again on Austraila.
The only way out for Australia was to bounce back under pressure. Hazlewood found his feet as the ball did reverse on multiple occasions. Nair was soon a victim of the same as Hazlewood angled the ball straight into the stumps to end the mini-partnership.
Cummins's introduction into the attack proved fruitful as Ashwin was caught behind by Wade who tried to play the pull shot. But, the umpire denied the visitors' appeal and they were forced to go upstairs for justice. The DRS decision showed that his glove had the slightest of edges and Ashwin made his way to the dressing room in disarray. Pujara needed someone who could stick around and rotate the strike from time to time and it came in the shape of Wriddhiman Saha. The wicketkeeper-batsman kept his cool and managed to tackle Cummins and O'Keefe.
Looking at the way Pujara is fearlessly tiring the bowlers along with Saha's support, the Australian bowlers should now let the pacers do the talking in the morning session. Cummins and Hazlewood must lead the charge and put in that extra effort to unsettle Pujara. A healthy partnership can change the atmosphere in Ranchi. If the visitors find it difficult to get Pujara, then they always have the option to clean the mess by clearing the tail-enders. As things stand, both teams are in contention and remain in a good position. Steve Smith and Co need to bundle the hosts before Lunch to get back on the front foot and maintain a lead of 30-40 runs when they come to bat on Day 4.
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