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Thursday, September 23, 2021

IND vs ENG, Day 3: Middle order flexes muscle as Pujara, Kohli hit stride

India, after finishing Day Three of the third Test on 215/2, are still playing serious catch-up.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: August 28, 2021 1:31:57 pm
IND vs ENGIND vs ENG, Day 3: Cheteshwar Pujara trusted his technique and thrived on positivity to remain unbeaten on 91. (AP/PTI)

It was a day of redeeming the bruised egos. It was a day of responding to 78 all out. It was a day of the big guns and not also-rans.

India, after finishing Day Three of the third Test on 215/2, are still playing serious catch-up. They still trail by 139 runs after England were all out for 432 in the morning. They could have wilted under a mountain of runs and the excess baggage of a first innings batting implosion. Riding on their batting royalty, the tourists are fighting back instead.

Rohit Sharma was excellent until he was adjudged leg-before on umpire’s call, a very marginal decision with the ball gingerly clipping the leg stump. Cheteshwar Pujara trusted his technique and thrived on positivity to remain unbeaten on 91. And during his 45 not out, Virat Kohli never showed any signs of a player searching for form. They neutralised James Anderson, who had an off day. They wore down the excellent Ollie Robinson and countered Craig Overton through quality and application, when the latter bowled a very good spell. The Headingley pitch is still playing true, although Joe Root managed to turn a couple of deliveries, once almost breaching Kohli’s defence.

Bad light upset the England captain’s plan to have a go with the second new ball late in the evening. The tourists will have to be ready for a fresh challenge on the fourth day.

Day 3, Highlights: 

Since the day Pujara picked up a cricket bat and started serious training under his father Arvind, technique has been an integral part of his game. Sometimes, when batsmen go through a string of low scores, they tinker with their technique. Pujara stayed true to the basic tenet of his game, trusting the process. He came out with a positive mindset after Overton ended KL Rahuls’ unconvincing stay at the crease.

Facing a first innings deficit of 354 runs, teams look for a big opening partnership to rally. But 34/1 didn’t deter Pujara. He was off the mark with a four, clipping Anderson through mid-wicket. Next over, Overton bowled full on the leg stump and Pujara whipped it for another boundary. It was an electric start from the so-called slow man, who always seems to be walking a tightrope.

The Indian batsmen took a leaf out of Root’s book and targeted square-of-the-wicket and the third man region. Those are high-scoring areas at this ground. Pujara’s hard grind that worked wonderfully well in Australia, wasn’t proving to be effective in England, a country where the ball moves all day and a wicket ball is always around the corner. Brian Lara’s advice to India’s No. 3 was to “try and create a lot more shots”. Pujara followed that in toto.

He pulled with power, once almost taking leg umpire Richard Kettleborough out with a shot. He even played a ramp off Robinson for a four. As Pujara pulled Overton to reach his half-century, everybody, from Ravi Shastri to Ravi Ashwin, stood at the dressing-room balcony and clapped, attesting the player’s popularity in the team. The Indian expats in the stands blew trumpet to the tune of ‘tera mera tera mera pehla yaarana’. Pujara’s county stint with Yorkshire has made him a fan favourite among the locals.

James Anderson England’s James Anderson prepares to bowl during the third day of third test cricket match between England and India, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Rohit was application personified, not quite in the Geoffrey Boycott mould, which he was in the first innings. Today, he mixed aggression with caution. He played a ramp, hit a glorious bowler’s back drive, steered deliveries down through third man and creamed a few through covers. He had a close shave, as Root delayed his decision to review an LBW appeal and the clock ran down. Apart from that, the opener was in control. The Robinson delivery that got him, struck on the front pad and Rohit was rightly disappointed not to get the benefit of the doubt from the on-field umpire. His second wicket partnership with Pujara yielded 82 runs and supplied confidence.

Unlike their Indian counterparts, England quicks are basically swing bowlers. They move the ball in the air, while Jasprit Bumrah and company hit the deck. Little wonder then that the England fast bowlers always got nice shape on the ball, making things more challenging for the batsmen.

The India captain walked out to bat under a bucketload of pressure. Root asked Anderson to warm-up. The master craftsman had induced Kohli to drive a full delivery in the first innings, setting him up for the dismissal. Here, the duel started with a freebie on the leg stump and a four ensued. That wicked delivery came pretty soon, in the corridor but unlike the first innings, coming off good length rather than full length. Kohli accepted the challenge and played it gorgeously past extra cover for a four. If the first innings honours belonged to Anderson, Kohli so far has held sway at the second dig.

Both Pujara and Kohli showed the value of having the right technique, batsmen’s cushion to bounce back from off form. As regards to England, they missed a fifth bowler on the day, for Sam Curran was pedestrian.

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