Vijay and Pujara added 209 runs for the 2nd wicket and laid a solid foundation for a big total    IANS
Vijay and Pujara added 209 runs for the 2nd wicket and laid a solid foundation for a big total AFP

Riding on the effort of twin centurions Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, India gave a solid reply to the visitors England in the first Test of the five-match series here at Rajkot. At stumps on Day Three, India managed to put 319 runs on board for the loss of four wickets with skipper Virat Kohli at the crease. India still trail England by 218 runs and will look to get the monkey of the lead off their back on Day Four and then plan the future course of action. Draw seems an imminent result but as Sourav Ganguly says, “In the subcontinent, pitches change very, very quickly. On Day Three and Day Four, you will see this pitch turn a lot more consistently than Day One and Day Two,” we can t really predict what the outcome shall be. With Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra in India s ranks, you never know. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot.

For now though, India will look to further consolidate their position on Day Three and hope that it goes like Day Two. Skipper Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who will join him tomorrow morning, will look to further puncture the hopes of English bowlers, who could manage just two wickets on Day Three, and get to a big score on the fourth day. Their first aim obviously shall be to get past the 337-run mark and avoid the follow-on, post which they would like to assess their plans and see how to approach the game. Whether or not they can force a result in the game shall be clear tomorrow.

With captain Kohli in the middle, decision making should not be a problem. The skipper has looked composed so far. He played the balls on their merit and displayed a perfect balance of aggression and caution. The 28-year-old batsman gave a good stand to Vijay, who was by the end of day exhausted and facing fitness issues like cramps. The two did well to ensure the day belonged to India. However, Vijay’s concentration was broken towards the end of day’s play when he was caught at short leg by Haseeb Hameed off Adil Rashid’s bowling for 126. Soon after, nightwatchman Amit Mishra was dismissed in similar fashion by Zafar Ansari for naught and on that note the day’s play came to an end.

Earlier, the day did not quite begin on a handsome note for the team. Unbeaten overnight batsman Gautam Gambhir fell on the first ball of day s second over bowled by Stuart Broad. Gambhir got himself tangled in an awkward position in front of the stumps and was adjudged lbw for 29. The batsman knew it he was out and decided not to review it. There on, it was all Vijay-Pujara show till the post tea session, where both the batsmen got to their hundreds.

Pujara was in sublime touch. The local fellow, Pujara continued from where he had left in Indore and brought up his consecutive hundred. His scores in fact in last four Tests at home now read, 62, 78, 87, 4, 41, 101 not out and 124 in this game. Not to forget his 166, 31 and 256 not out in the Duleep Trophy a couple of months back and 93 in Ranji Trophy game just before this match. He was in full flow today except for a brief period, where he was disturbed by the barrage of short-pitched stuff by Chris Woakes and hit on his helmet thrice. But Pujara dealt with the rest of the bowlers quite well. He was extremely adept against spinners and displayed terrific footwork.

Vijay on the other hand played with the monk-like patience; something he is known for. While Pujara dealt in boundaries, as he hit 17 as compared to Vijay s 9, the latter was more brutal to spinners, stepping out of the crease and hitting them into the stands on three occasions. He was lucky too, on one occasion, when he played a cover drive off Broad but could not keep it down as the shot went straight to covers where debutante Haseeb Hameed was standing. Hameed did not look ready as he dropped a sitter and gave a reprieve to Vijay.

The English bowlers did slow things down in the overs after lunch but still could not find a wicket. In the 71st over, Ansari bowled an arm-bowl which was missed by Pujara and was given out. Pujara was in no mood to walk back so early, especially before getting to the magical three-figure mark, as he reviewed instantly and to India and his delight, the decision turned in hosts favour. What followed was a pleasing response by his wife, who almost danced to see the decision get overturn, and his father-cum-coach Arvind, who was happy to see his ward succeed at home.

India went at tea with both Pujara and Vijay on the brink of their hundreds. Immediately after tea, Pujara got to his 9th Test ton while soon after, Vijay brought in his 7th Test ton. Though he hit a few sixes, Pujara looked the aggressor among the two. His knock was a stroke-filled one, with odd balls being duly hit towards the boundary line. He did manage to entertain the scores of fans who had come to see one of their favourite sons play. And most importantly, he must have surely made his old man proud with that performance. Arvind sat through the day patiently, like he always does when Pujara plays domestic cricket at his hometown, and even appreciated his son s effort.

Pujara was finally dismissed by Ben Stokes, who got him caught at the widish slip by skipper Alastair Cook. He went back a disappointed man, knowing he had all the time to get to a double-hundred there. Even after his departure, Vijay kept going. He found an able ally in Kohli, as the two added 41 runs for the third wicket before Vijay was dismissed. Kohli remained unbeaten on 26.

The Day Three truly belonged to India, barring the last 5 minutes, and if England do not get their act together on the fourth day, they will be in for a long day in office.

Brief Scores: England 537 all out in 159.3 overs (Ben Stokes 128, Joe Root 124, Moeen Ali 117; Ravindra Jadeja 3/86, Mohammed Shami 2/65, Umesh Yadav 2/112, Ravichandran Ashwin 2/167) vs India 319/4 (Murali Vijay 126, Cheteshwar Pujara 124, Gautam Gambhir 29, Virat Kohli 26 not out; Ben Stokes 1/39, Stuart Broad 1/58) at stumps on Day 3.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)