The only time Arvind Pujara got up from his seat was when the crowd in Rajkot stadium came in numbers to congratulate him. He hadn’t moved till then. There was the smile on his face that he had sported the whole day, watching his son scoring runs. He had done that for many years now but never when his son was playing an international match. So when Pujara took a quick single to reach his ninth Test hundred, not only was Arvind happy, the crowd in Rajkot was at its feet. They very own had scored his first home ton in Rajkot’s debut Test.
Couple of overs later, his partner Murali Vijay reached the three figure mark with two consecutive fours. Both shared a 209-run stand for the second wicket to lead India’s strong reply against England’s 537 in first innings.
On a pitch that is beginning to crack, Pujara and Vijay took different path to reach the landmark. While Pujara made a 206-ball 124, Vijay took 301 balls for his 126. Virat Kohli was unbeaten for India on 20 at stumps on Day 3 with his side finishing the day at 319/4, still trailing England by 218 runs. Kohli would have more pleased had Vijay and night watchman Amit Mishra’s wickets not fallen in the last five minutes of the day’s play.
Resuming the day at 63/0, India had a big setback in the second over as Stuart Broad dismissed overnight batsman Gautam Gambhir off his first ball of the day. Gambhir was caught in a tangle as he tried to play a dead straight ball on the leg-side.
Pujara joined Vijay and began with a flurry of boundaries and overtook Vijay in scoring his fifty. Vijay opted for a slow approach and completed his half-century off 124 balls. Both took India to Lunch at 162/1.
Then began complete domination of England bowlers as Pujara cut and drove the spinners to keep the scoreboard moving with over three runs per over. He had an anxious moment when on 86, just before Tea.
Zafar Ansari got one past Pujara’s bat that hit him one the back leg. Umpire Kumar Dhramasena gave it out and left the Rajkot crowd stunned. Pujara immediately reviewed the decision which revealed that the ball was going over stumps. Pujara went to Tea at 99*. Vijay had also got a life when debutant Haseeb Hameed put one down at short covers. Pujara was dismissed by Ben Stokes when he was caught by Alastair Cook at wide first slip trying to play a late cut.
Kohli took his time settle but then looked fluent against the bowlers. He will resume the Indian innings on Saturday, most likely with Ajinkya Rahane and look to bat as long as possible.