Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant hundreds headline India’s march to 622/7
Rishabh Pant’s 159* is the highest Test score by an Indian wicketkeeper overseas. © AFP

Cheteshwar Pujara fell seven runs short of a fourth Test double-century – a surprise, given his record of converting scores of 160 into 200 – and Rishabh Pant secured his career-best to take India to a mammoth 622/7 declared on day two at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It was remorseless run-accumulation, with Ravindra Jadeja‘s bullish 81 adding to Australia‘s toil across 167.2 overs from which India put up their highest total in a Test outside of Asia since the tour of England in 2007. In ten overs before stumps, Australia made 24 without loss, with Usman Khawaja dropped on zero by Pant behind the stumps off Mohammed Shami.

An excellent 193 from 373 deliveries marked a personal best overseas for India’s marathon man Pujara, who put on 89 for the sixth wicket with Pant, who made a landmark century – the first by an Indian wicketkeeper on Australian soil – during a record seventh-wicket partnership of 204 with Jadeja, who was last out to signal the declaration. (ALSO READ:  AS IT HAPPENED, DAY TWO)

Australia were run ragged by Pant and Jadeja, with the perky wicketkeeper-batsman surging to an unbeaten 159 off 189 deliveries, the highest Test score by an Indian wicketkeeper. Had Jadeja not been bowled by Nathan Lyon – who has now bowled 242.1 overs this series – when attempting a big shot, it is likely Pant could have secured a double-hundred, such was the flatness of the SCG pitch and the weariness of the bowlers. (SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, 4th TEST)

To recap a record-setting day, we must return to the start. It has been a record-setting tour for Pujara, one that has seen him bat for over 30 hours while setting a new benchmark for visiting batsmen in a series of four Tests or under in Australia and highlights the intense nature of his character. In South Africa a year ago he struggled against high-quality fast bowling but showed the appetite for a fight; in England last summer he got good scores but just one quality hundred. In Australia, he has so far stacked up 521 runs with three exceptional centuries.

A drive through the covers for four off Lyon took Pujara to 150 for the seventh time in Tests, and raised the 100 stand with Hanuma Vihari. In the same over, however, Lyon claimed Vihari when a mistimed sweep took the glove and settled in short leg’s palms for the simplest of chances. The batsman reviewed, but Snicko showed a faint spike. Vihari made 42, adding just three runs to his overnight score in an hour. When he twirled Starc to fine leg for two, Pujara went past his previous highest score outside of India, the 153 he made in Johannesburg in 2013 and in Galle in 2017. Of the six times he had previously reached 150, thrice Pujara was dismissed before 159 and each time he had crossed that score, a double-century was achieved.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant ticked off milestones during their SCG hundreds.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant ticked off milestones during their SCG hundreds. © AFP

Dropped on 192 by Khawaja at slip when he top-edged a cut off Lyon, Pujara added one run before the same bowler lured him out of his crease and beat him in the flight. Lyon held a low return catch to cut off Pujara, ending an innings that spanned 373 balls.

Pant, who collected his first four before lunch when he pushed a 150.6kph yorker from Starc, tailing into leg stump, past the stumps, was restrained until he collected his half-century from 85 balls. Then he started charging out to Lyon, misting a few shots but still getting a four over mid-off. Marnus Labuschagne was reverse-swept for four with power, Starc punched on the rise into the covers and a couple of attempted heaves connected with air.

At tea, India were 491/6 with Pant on 88, one run shy of the highest score by an Indian wicketkeeper in Australia – Farokh Engineer’s 89. Pant had not managed a big score in six innings on tour, but post tea he duly marched to his century. The milestone came when he swung his 137th delivery wide of midwicket for four. Pant’s second Test hundred took his run tally past Virat Kohli’s 282.

It was a supreme innings for it took full toll on a flagging Australian attack, and did not feature the impetuosity that saw Pant get out in the nineties in consecutive innings versus West Indies. He was hell-bent on accumulating a hundred and did so while showcasing his range of strokes and ability to graft.

Out came Jadeja’s sword-wielding celebration when he patted his 89th delivery down the ground to get to his fifty, an innings that until then been manufactured from bunts and shovels and taps apart from stunning flat-batted six off Pat Cummins. His fifty pocked, Jadeja switched onto beast mode by hammering Cummins for four fours in an over, each shot louder and more disdainful than the last. Cummins banged it in, Jadeja pulled. Cummins went fuller, Jadeja cleared his front leg and smacked the ball over the bowler’s head. Back to short went Cummins, and back to pulling went Jadeja.

Pant then treated Josh Hazlewood with similar contempt, hitting the quick for three fours in over. The fun ended when Jadeja fell to Lyon, who ended with figures of 57.2-8-178-4 – his costliest figures in a home Test.

Australia should have been one down, but Pant’s drop gave Khwaja a lifeline.

Stumps: Australia 24/0 trail India 622/7 declared (Pujara 193, Pant 159*, Jadeja 81) by 598 runs