Ranchi: Cheteshwar Pujara carried his bat through the day and carved out a defiant century to keep India afloat at 360 for six against Australia in a Test that was tantalisingly-poised after his exemplary display of grit and discipline here.
At stumps on the third day of the ongoing third Test, India trailed Australia by 91 runs with four wickets remaining at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) stadium. Resuming at their overnight score of 120 for one, India were left to rely on the solidity of Pujara, whose 11th Test ton proved to be the fulcrum around which the home team's innings was built after the cheap dismissal of skipper Virat Kohli (6).
Pujara’s undefeated stay at the crease spanned six hours and 52 minutes and he faced 328 balls, hitting 17 boundaries. Giving him support at the other end at close was Wriddhiman Saha on 18 from 42 balls.
Australia will be pleased that they conceded not more than 240 runs on a wicket where shot-making is much easier than in the first two Tests. In all, India lost four wickets on the day. Batting on 10 overnight, Pujara absorbed the pressure and built his innings beautifully as he struck his 11th Test century in a top class display of grit and gumption.
Josh Hazlewood (1/66) gave a fine breakthrough in the final session after he knocked over the off-stump of Karun Nair (23) with an angled delivery, using the width of his bowling crease.
Returning to action after his freak shoulder injury on day one, Kohli (6 from 23 balls) had a testing 37 minutes’ vigil at the crease before his soft dismissal by Cummins immediately after the new ball was taken in the 81st over.
Nair looked elegant in his 44-run partnership with Pujara and being the last recognised batsman, it was a blow to India's revival plan. Australia's most successful bowler of the day - Pat Cummins (4/59) - at the other end dismissed Ravichandran Ashwin (3) after the visitors successfully used a review.
After that, Saha gave perfect support to Pujara as they saw off the day without any hiccup. Earlier, Pujara and Murali Vijay (82) executed the team's plan perfectly in their 102-run second-wicket stand, their sixth century-plus partnership in 10 Tests this home season. The duo almost saw through the first session before Vijay was tempted by Steeve O'Keefe to step out of the crease to be stumped at the stroke of lunch.