MCG pitch’s variable bounce will be tough for Australia: Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara was bowled for 106 by a ball that kept very low. © AFP

India’s lone centurion at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, out of a total of 443/7 declared from 169.4 overs, believes that the visiting team has a total from where they can push for victory over Australia with three days left in the third Test.

Cheteshwar Pujara brought up his 17th Test hundred on a day of toil for Australia’s bowlers, on a slow and low MCG surface with variable bounce. Speaking to reporters after the day’s play, Pujara felt India had a very good total on the board given the uneasy nature of the pitch.

“I think so. It’s a tough wicket to score runs on,” he said. “The first two days, if you look at the number of runs scored, its very less, but to score 200 in a day is a tough task. I think we have enough runs on the board and as we saw today the pitch has already started deteriorating. There’s variable bounce on it. When I was batting on it yesterday and today I felt there was a difference, and I don’t think its easier to bat now. From tomorrow I think it will get difficult to bat on. Our bowlers have been bowling well, so I would say we have enough runs on the board.” (FULL SCORECARD: INDIA vs AUSTRALIA, MCG TEST)

Having batted 319 deliveries for 106, before he was bowled by a ball from Pat Cummins that crept past his shin and hit the stumps, Pujara cited the pace of the MCG track as the biggest hurdle for batsmen on both sides.

“To get used to the pace is difficult. Sometimes you feel it is on the slower side, but the odd ball kicks up and I got hit on my finger. Luckily it is not that bad and I could bat, but I did have to try and get out of the way four of five times … and those were not short balls,” he said. “Those were back-of-a-length balls and I got hit on my gloves, so as a batsman there’s always doubt when you play on such pitches. The ball I got out to, I felt I could not have done anything about it. (ALSO READ: Virat Kohli, dynamic influencer, and Cheteshwar Pujara, unhurried aggregator, combine to thwart Australia)

“You have to bat as per the wicket and the situation. On this wicket, each batsman had to play a lot of balls to get set,” he said. “It was tough. If those couple of wickets had not fallen, I could have gone on to get 140-150 at the least, but that’s what Test cricket is about. You have to gauge the pitch and the situation and bat accordingly.”

His reservoir of patience is Pujara’s hallmark, and this 17th century is his second of the series in what is his most successful overseas tour. Pujara has 328 runs in five innings, outdoing by some distance the 201 runs he managed in six innings on the last tour of Australia in 2014-15.

Asked to rate his 106, Pujara deflected the question by putting the focus on the task ahead – that of bowling out Australia twice in the next three days.

“It has been a good tour for me, personally, but the biggest thing is that this Test remains very important for us,” he said. “It’s 1-1 and everyone knows how important a result is. We’ve batted well but we have to focus on our game plan and get 20 wickets. The variable bounce will help our bowlers.”