After Australia posted 451 runs in the first innings of the Ranchi Test, India needed a good performance from their batsmen to stay in the Test series. And the batsmen came up with the goods when the stakes were high.
After beginning day three at 120-1, the Indian batsmen batted through the entire day, and when stumps were called on Saturday, India had reached 360-6. It is India's highest total in this series.
It was a hard-fought day of Test cricket, with both sides maintaining high intensity pretty much right through the day – though a couple of Indian batsmen can be singled out for the shot selection that brought about their dismissals. India walked away with honours for the morning session.
Although not too many runs were scored in the pre-lunch session, the Indian batsmen did extremely well to grind the Australian bowlers. In the second session, though India lost the wickets of Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, the rest of the batsmen – led by Cheteshwar Pujara – kept the scoreboard ticking and helped the team to a position of strength.
In the final session, the runs dried up – because the Australians employed tactics which plugged the flow of runs and opted to test the patience of the batsmen, and also because the batsmen for some strange reason went into a shell. In the final session, particularly in the period after Karun Nair was dismissed, the home team only managed to score at a rate of 1.79.
While India lost wickets at one end, one batsman batted through the day. At the start of the day's play, Cheteshwar Pujara walked in to bat in the company of Murali Vijay. At the end of the day's play, Pujara was still there – unconquered on 130. It was the second time in his career that Pujara had batted through an entire day's play. He had accomplished a similar feat against Sri Lanka at the SSC Colombo in 2015.
During the course of the day, Pujara brought up his 11th Test hundred, his 10th at number three, his 9th at home, 4th this season and second against Australia. The India number three stood like a rock at one end – though one could notice a definite drop in his scoring rate in the final session of the day.
Together with his 130 in the first innings in Ranchi, Pujara now has an aggregate of 1,187 runs in this season – the second-most by any player in Test matches this season. On Sunday, Pujara will have the opportunity to not only take India past Australia’s total, but also overtake his skipper’s aggregate of runs and become India’s most productive batsman this season.
Virat Kohli, who has been in magnificent form in this home season, hasn't done too much of note so far in this particular series against Australia. After accumulating just 40 runs in the first two Test matches in this series, the Indian captain was dismissed for yet another poor score on Saturday.
Along with the 6 runs he scored in the first innings in Ranchi, his aggregate in the last five innings stands at 46 runs – his second-lowest aggregate runs in five consecutive Test innings.