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India vs England: Cheteshwar Pujara leads the way as visitors begin long fight

At stumps, India are still trailing England by 139 runs with eight wickets in hand. For the visitors, Cheteshwar Pujara (91*) and skipper Virat Kohli (45*) are at the crease.

Published: 27th August 2021 11:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2021 12:48 PM   |  A+A-

India's Cheteshwar Pujara, right, bats during the third day of third test cricket match between England and India, at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds, England, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021

Cheteshwar Pujara (R), bats during the third day of third test match between England and India, at Headingley, Leeds, England, Aug 27, 2021. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It doesn't matter how probing the opposition bowlers were. It doesn't matter how favourable the conditions were for swing and seam, and how unfortunate the batting side was to keep nicking behind the wicket every time there was an error of judgment.

When a side is bowled out for 36 and 78 twice in a span of less than 12 months, it is bound to create oodles of uncertainty and panic among the team's batsmen. India have been bowled out now for less than 100 on successive away tours of Australia and England within eight months of each other, but the way they have responded to those setbacks is indicative of the current team's ability and resolve.

The second innings at Headingley in Leeds is still in progress of course and India have a mountain to climb to avoid defeat here, but a much improved showing with the bat suggests that there are no mental scars among any of the Indian batsmen.

At the end of Day 3, India were 215/2 - trailing by 139 runs - with Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on 91 and skipper Virat Kohli on 45 not out. Their unbeaten stand of 99 built on the hard work that Pujara put in alongside Rohit Sharma (59) in the second session.    

The conditions had eased for batting on the third day for sure, but a humongous deficit of 354 can weigh heavily on the best in the business. Far from rolling over meekly, the Indian batsmen have produced a worthy riposte in the second innings.

Nobody will be more pleased than Pujara. Unlike the first innings when he came in to bat in the first over, a solid start by the openers allowed him breathing space. He joined Rohit Sharma at the crease only after lunch with the ball 19 overs old, but he was still under tremendous pressure.

His returns haven't been prolific in the last couple of years and an alarming trend of pushing at deliveries away from his body on this tour had raised concerns.

On Friday, Pujara was off the blocks quickly. His pace of run-scoring is often criticised unfairly, but there was going to be no such dissection of his scoring rate on this occasion. It wasn't necessarily to do with any conscious change in approach, but the fact that he was welcomed with a generous dose of balls on his pads in the early part of his innings.

He accepted those offerings gleefully as he tends to do and raced away to 22 off 28 balls. It perhaps helped Pujara overcome any early jitters, especially with Rohit looking in pristine touch once again. If there was one shot that summed up Pujara's feisty knock, it was the manner of reaching his first half-century of the tour - bringing out the pull to dispatch a short delivery from Craig Overton through the square leg region.

Just three overs later, there was a ramp over the slips as a flurry of boundaries continued to flow off Pujara's bat. 

With Rohit's assured presence at the other end, the period between lunch and tea was the first time India won a session in this Test. While Rohit was dismissed shortly after tea for 59, Kohli came in and got down to business with some crisp boundaries.

India haven't been strangers to bouncing back from low scores recently. They were bundled out for their lowest score ever - 36 - against Australia in Adelaide last year, but their rousing comeback over the course of the next three Tests is now stuff of folklore in Indian cricket.

If India can somehow find a way out of the mess that they got themselves into on the opening day, their efforts here will be just as miraculous as their heroics on Australian soil.

Scoreboard

India 1st innings: 78. England 1st innings: (overnight 423/8): Overton lbw b Shami 32, Robinson b Bumrah 0, Anderson (not out)) 0; Extras (b8, lb4, nb8, w1): 21; Total (all out in 132.2 ovs): 432; FoW: 9-431. Bowling: Ishant 22-0-92-0, Bumrah 27.2-10-59-2, Shami 28-8- 95-4, Siraj 23-3-86-2, Jadeja 32-8-88-2

India 2nd innings: Rohit lbw Robinson 59, Rahul c Bairstow b Overton 8, Pujara (batting) 91, Kohli (batting) 45. Extras (b4, lb2, nb4, w2): 12; Total (2 wkt, 80 ovs): 215. FoW: 1-34, 2-116. Bowling: Anderson 19-8-51-0, Robinson 18-4- 40-1, Overton 17-6-35-1, Curran 9-1-40-0, Moeen 11-1-28-0, Root 6-1-15-0.



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