3rd Test: Pujara leads fightback, gives India hope
Leeds, August 27, 2021
Just like they have been doing in the recent past, India fought back grittily to give their fans a glimmer of hope of saving the third Test against England, as they overcame the disappointment of being bowled out for 78 in the first innings to end the third day at 215/2.
The rearguard action, orchestrated by Cheteshwar Pujara (91 not out), opener Rohit Sharma (61) and skipper Virat Kohli (45 not out), has already gnawed at England's first innings lead of 354 runs and brought the deficit down to 139.
Though they still need to go some way to make England bat again, the peformance of the three of the top four -- K.L. Rahul fell for just seven -- should boost India's confidence.
If they can add 250 more to their total and set England a target of about 110-120, they can challenge the hosts on a pitch that has begun to assist turn.
On a track that had turned remarkably placid on Days 2 and 3, the Indians did the first thing right early on by getting rid of the English tail quickly. They removed the last two batsmen with the addition of just nine runs to the overnight total.
With a 354-run lead in the kitty, English bowlers maintained disciplined line and length, managing to send back Rahul at the stroke of lunch.
But then Sharma and Pujara knitted an 82-run partnership for the second wicket. Even as Sharma displayed patience, Pujara played aggressively, stroking boundaries on anything pitched on his legs.
The post-lunch session belonged to India as Pujara got into his groove and for once outscored his partner, who is an expert in white ball cricket and scoring quickly. As England searched for swing on a pitch that had flattened out, they made mistakes by often giving away easy runs on the legs of Pujara, who clipped the deliveries to boundary with comfort.
For most part, the Saurashtra batsman, who had struggled to get a fifty in this series, looked fluid as he hammered 15 boundaries during his 180-ball unbeaten stay in the middle.
After Sharma's dismissal, Pujara was joined by skipper Kohli who got going by hammering his nemesis James Anderson, who had dismissed the India skipper in the first innings, to the fence.
The two kept the scoreboard ticking as England bowlers struggled to find a breakthrough.
As the ball softened and the light dimmed, the umpires forced England to bring in spinners Moeen Ali and Joe Root, who couldn't make any breakthrough.
Brief scores: India 78 and 215/2 in 80 overs (C Pujara batting 91, R Sharma 61, V Kohli batting 45) vs England 432 all out in 132.2 overs (J Root 121, D Malan 70, H Hameed 68, R Burns 61, M Shami 4/95, Jasprit Bumrah 2/59, M Siraj 2/86, R Jadeja 2/88)