Ranchi: Opener Murali Vijay and one down Chesteshwar Pujara dug deep and played with poise to help India post 193/2 in reply to Australia’s 451 at lunch on day three of the third cricket Test here Saturday.
The duo, known to play copybook shots in the longest format of the game, stitched together a 102-run stand for the second wicket after the hosts had lost a set opener Lokesh Rahul (67 off 102 balls) towards the end of the second day.
Left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe (1/67) gave the Aussies something to cheer about in the last ball of the first session, taking the wicket of Vijay (82 off 183) who played for spin but was stumped by wicketkeeper Mathew Wade.
At lunch, Pujara remained unbeaten on 40 off 139 deliveries with captain Virat Kohli — who shrugged off his shoulder injury to bat in the nets on Saturday, taking throwdowns and facing some left-arm spin — expected to join him after the break.
India still trail the Aussies by 258 runs with eight wickets remaining in the first essay.
The partnership between Vijay and Pujara took time as there was 10 overs between the first two boundaries of the day.
But the pair stepped up the gear and played shots towards the end of the session as India looked to close in on the Aussies.
It had the vibe of their stand in the 2013 second Test in Hyderabad where Vijay and Pujara posted a mammoth 370 runs for the second wicket with the former scoring 167 and the latter amassing 204.
But those thoughts were nipped in the bud when Vijay’s lapse of concentration cost him dear as he came dancing down the track leaving enough time for Wade to stump him.
The visitors though were left gutted, losing two reviews so early on in India’s first innings, the second one going down the drain this morning when O’Keefe appealed for an leg before call off Pujara.
In the second over of the day, Vijay stepped out of his crease to tonk the ball over long on for a six.
It took the duo 10 overs after the Vijay’s six to score the next boundary when Pujara punished O’Keefe for a short of a length delivery, guiding the ball past midwicket.
Lyon was introduced soon after and in his first ball got the inside edge of Vijay with the ball hitting his pads and going towards slip only to come off his body and stop.
Having lost their first DRS chance just before stumps on the second day, the visitors got it wrong again. O’Keefe thought he had got Pujara leg before with the right-hander playing for turn when there was none.
But replays clearly showed the ball had struck bat first and the decision also went in India’s favour leaving Steve Smith with no reviews left in his kitty.
All padded up and raring to go, skipper Kohli was seen coming out of the dressing room and mocking his rivals by applauding sarcastically with a wary smile on his face.
In the next over, the need for DRS was underlined when Lyon appealed for a bat-pad catch although replays showed there was clear inside edge, which the on-field umpires failed to recognise and the Aussies did not have the option of going upstairs.
There were a couple of appeals towards the end of first session also but all went in vain as the hosts upped the ante with Vijay and Pujara hitting boundaries.