MCG Test: India 346/4 at tea on day two after Pujara-Kohli resistance ended
Cheteshwar Pujara's hundred came to an end with a shooter from Pat Cummins. © AFP

After two wicketless sessions and 68 overs, Australia managed a wicket in the form of a gift from Virat Kohli and then made it double joy by extracting Cheteshwar Pujara moments later to find some lift on the second afternoon of the third Test at the MCG. At tea, the Mumbai pair of Ajinkya Rahane (30*) and Rohit Sharma (13*) had taken India to 346/4 after that double-blow.

India have scored 131 runs in 54 overs on Thursday. Wickets were hard to come by, as was scoring on an up-and-down surface.

Kohli and Pujara, who secured his 17th Test hundred shortly before lunch, put on 170 for the third wicket. Kohli looked firmly in sight of his 26th Test hundred until, on 82, he uppercut Mitchell Starc straight to Aaron Finch at third man. His innings needed 204 balls – the second time in three innings Kohli has faced 200 – and came to an end with that tired shot. After a rare opportunity on day one to sit with his feet up for two sessions, Kohli had to struggle with a stiff back against some disciplined bowling and did that admirably, only to throw it away when a century was 18 runs away. (FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, MCG TEST)

Given how hard Australia’s bowlers had toiled, it did seem apparent that a lapse in concentration from the set batsmen would bring the breakthrough.

Eleven balls later, Pujara got a grubber from Pat Cummins that crept near his ankles and hit the stumps. The contrast in wicket modes could not have been more stark. Pujara’s 106 encompassed 319 deliveries, which means that he’s faced 883 in the series. Only in one other series has Pujara faced more: 1049 during the previous edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2017. (ALSO READ: Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli take India to 277/2 at lunch on day two)

It was indeed a hallmark Pujara innings, one that underlined his durability and unflappability when hell-bent on occupying the crease. He is a player who likes to graft with the best of them, and his 17th Test hundred was a special one that has kept India ahead of Australia.

Rahane and Rohit added 47 in 17.2 overs while adopting a similar, if not as solid approach. Back in the XI after missing the Perth Test, Rohit had to shelve his natural ways to grind it out against a very testing Nathan Lyon while trying to block out a chirpy Tim Paine behind the stumps who constantly referred to the batsman’s IPL exploits. His 13 came from 52 deliveries.

In the morning, Pujara moved from 68 to his hundred while adopting the same approach as he had on day one. He nudged, deflected and left with confidence and his twinkle-toed brilliance to Nathan Lyon nullified the threat of the offspinner. A fierce square-drive for four off Starc wide of point put him into the eighties, an even better shot wide of mid-on for four off Lyon got him into the nineties. A flourishing punch past mid-off took him from 96 to 100, which sparked a broad smile and acknowledgement of an MCG Test hundred. Two hundreds in three Tests in Australia are a considerable feat of concentration and determination.

Kohli was in no hurry either. He was made slightly uncomfortable during a testing spell by Cummins, who beat the edge numerous times with a series of well-directed swinging deliveries at pace. When Cummins dragged back the length, Kohli was forced to stand tall and deflect the ball. There were no shots of bravado against Cummins, but that did not perturb Kohli for he and Pujara were determined to see out the session.

Tea: India 346/4 (Pujara 106, Kohli 82) vs Australia