The Indian batters ground their way to a substantial first innings score on day two of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG to gain the upper hand over Australia with the series level 1-1.
Not for nothing are Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli the lynchpins of the Indian batting lineup, and the pair proved their class yet again on the second morning of the third Test against Australia.
They took the overnight score from 215-2 up to 293 in compiling a slow but steady 170-run stand for the third wicket. The pair shared the strike almost to the ball, with Pujara scoring 72 runs off 205 balls and Kohli 82 off 204 balls during their stand. Pujara went to his 17th Test century off 280 balls (10×4), shortly before lunch, but six overs after the break Kohli was caught by Aaron Finch at third man after hitting out against Mitchell Starc.
Kohli fell 18 runs short of what would have been his 26th Test century, but his was an invaluable contribution to the Indian innings. Pujara followed six runs and three overs later after scoring 106 runs off 319 balls, his second century of the series.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma continued to build on India’s great start, adding 62 for the fourth wicket, with Sharma scoring 24 (69 balls) and Rahane 29 (71 balls). Rahane fell for 34 off 76 balls (2×4), after which Sharma and Rishabh Pant put together a stand of 76 for the sixth wicket, Pant falling for 39 off 76 balls.
Kohli called his batters back into the pavilion the following over with Sharma undefeated on 63 off 114 balls (5×4) and the team’s total on 443-7 off 169.4 overs.
Australia had spent the better part of two days in the field as they toiled away at the Indian batters, with little to show for their efforts. Pat Cummins (3-72) and Mitchell Starc (2-87) enjoyed the most success with the ball, while Josh Hazlewood (1-86) and Nathan Lyon (1-110) each picked up a wicket after labouring long and hard – Lyon sending down 48 overs alone. The recalled Mitchell Marsh was the most economical of the bowlers (albeit without any wickets to show for his efforts), returning figures of 26-4-51-0 (econ 1.96).
Aussie openers Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch saw out the six overs before the close to end on 8-0, although Harris took a nasty blow to the helmet. The pair will resume their innings tomorrow still 435 runs behind India’s first innings score.
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