Adelaide, December 17
Cheteshwar Pujara’s ultra-defensive approach became his own undoing as India crawled to 107 for 3 at tea after being choked for runs by an inspired Australia on the opening day of the first day/night Test here on Thursday.
So intent was Pujara (43 off 160 balls) on blocking anything and leaving everything for the better part of his innings, that a 68-run stand for the third wicket with skipper Virat Kohli (39 batting off 111 balls) couldn’t release pressure going into the second break of the evening.
Not often does one find a batsman take 148 balls to score a boundary and it became a battle of attrition between Pujara and star spinner Nathan Lyon (1/29 in 12 overs) during the post-dinner session.
It made for a fascinating hour of Test cricket, a throwback to the good old days when batsmen would plonk their front-foot with a big stride forward and use their pads as the first line of defence.
He did hit Lyon for a couple of boundaries trying to break the shackles but then came a classical off-break which had both turn and bounce and the bat-pad fielder Marnus Labuschagne, at leg-gully, lunged forward to take an easy catch.
While the art of defensive batting was a fantastic advertisement of top-quality Test cricket, it can’t be denied that Pujara’s dogged approach did make Kohli also go into his shell as a run-rate of 1.94 in 55 overs would suggest.
When Pujara used more pads against Lyon, Kohli played the copybook forward defence, presenting his bat first.
When an opportunity came along, he punched over Lyon’s head for a boundary.
Similary, a whip through mid-wicket off Mitchell Starc or rolling the wrists to keep a pull-shot down were signature Kohli.
In the morning, Prithvi Shaw’s (0) poor technique was once again exposed by Starc while Mayank Agarwal (17) got a beauty from Pat Cummins.
The Australian pace troika of Starc (1/26 in 12 overs), Josh Hazlewood (0/20 in 12 overs) and Cummins (1/12 in 11 overs) bowled a very steady line comprising mostly of fuller deliveries but to the credit of Kohli and Pujara, they didn’t look very jittery.
At the start, it was another disappointing mode of dismissal for Shaw who, according to many, was a rather surprising selection over an in-form Shubman Gill.
Starc kept a full delivery, which slightly shaped in, and the opener, having faced one delivery, went for an expansive drive, playing away from his body only to drag it back onto the stumps.
Agarwal was a bit adventurous as he found India’s first boundary with a cover drive off Hazlewood. An uppish square drive off Starc got him a second one.
But Cummins produced one that was fast and moved off the track and Agarwal was beaten for pace as replays showed that he couldn’t even complete landing on his front-foot. PTI