A ton from Virat Kohli (115), his seventh, and three 50s from Cheteshwar Pujara (73), Ajinkya Rahane (62) and Murali Vijay (53) helped India coast to 369 for five at the end of the third day of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval here Thursday. Australia earlier declared their first innings at the overnight score of 517 for seven.
Indian stand-in skipper Virat and Co. rose to the challenge and gave a perfect reply to Australia, who decided to make full use of the early morning conditions by having a crack at the young Indian batting line-up. Rohit Sharma (batting 33) and Wriddhiman Saha (batting 1) were at the crease at the close of the third day’s play. The visitors are still trailing by 148 runs in their first innings.
Apart from Kohli, several Indian batsmen did not make most of their good starts and after scoring fifties they failed to notch up a big score.
Kohli first shared an 81-run partnership for the second wicket with Pujara before stitching together another crucial 101-run stand with Rahane. Rohit Sharma too supported the Delhi batsman well and the duo forged a 74-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
After opener Vijay’s wicket, Kohli was welcomed with a high-rising bouncer by left-arm pacer Johnson. The ball hit Kohli on his head and it rattled both the batsman and the opposition, who are coming off a grief-stricken two weeks after the death of team-mate Phillip Hughes.
However, an aggressive Virat, unflustered by the bouncer, took the attack to the opposition and came out with a classy knock. Relying on his quick feet movement, he collected runs all around the park on his way to his first hundred in his maiden match as captain. His knock – laced with 12 boundaries – ended when he top edged a Johnson bouncer to Ryan Harris at deep fine leg at the fag end of the day.
Earlier, Indian openers started cautiously. They showed a lot of patience and didn’t score in the first two overs bowled by pacers Johnson and Harris.
Left-hander Dhawan started the calculated onslaught in the third over, spanking left-arm pacer Johnson for three boundaries through leg side and followed it up with another cracking cut in his next over.
Vijay was watchful and defended solidly against the testing line and length persisted by right-arm pacer Harris. He took 19 deliveries to get off the mark with a punch through mid-off that fetched him three runs.
However, Dhawan lost his wicket, dragging a Harris delivery on to his stumps as he tried to drive a ball on the up.
As new batsman Pujara walked in, the team scoreboard read 30 for one in 7.4 overs. The Saurashtra batsman took time to settle and judged the pace and bounce well before accelerating.
He scored regular boundaries through the leg side as Johnson and Peter Siddle bowled full. The bowlers with their aim to dismiss him either by ripping through his defence or leg before wicket, pitched the ball up on most occasions and he made full use of it. Trusting on his wristwork, Pujara earned most of his runs with drives through the covers, flicks towards mid-wicket and slices towards the point.
On the other hand, Vijay shifted his gear in the 17th over bowled by Peter Siddle with two consecutive fours – one a brilliant drive through cover and the other a beautiful flick through mid-wicket.
He too made good use of his feet when spinner Nathon Lyon came on to bowl, milking him for a six over mid-on and a four with a back-foot punch through the extra cover. He followed it up by dancing down the track and hitting it over the off-spinner’s head.
Vijay and Pujara shared an 81-run partnership for the second wicket before Australia skipper Michael Clarke brought in Johnson, whose away moving delivery was guided by Vijay to the wicket-keeper Brad Haddin.
Rahane was also assured in his innings, but offered Lyon his second wicket when the spinner’s delivery kissed his gloves and landed in the safe hands of Watson at slip.