Defensive Pujara ‘bats’ India out of match as Australia tighten noose with 197-run lead

SYDNEY, Jan 9:
Cheteshwar Pujara’s singular lack of intent pushed an injury-ravaged India into a deep hole as Australia tightened the noose with a substantial 197-run lead on a forgettable Saturday for the visitors in the third Test here.
Pujara’s slowest Test half-century, a painstaking 50 off 176 balls, was soon followed by India being bowled out for 244 on the third day with the other batsmen feeling tremendous pressure of a dormant scoreboard.
A first-innings lead of 94 runs provided by the bowlers and some good fielding did help Australia’s cause.
By stumps, Steve Smith (29 batting) and Marnus Labuschagne (47 batting) gave an exhibition of how to bat on slow tracks with Australia reaching 103/2.
Labuschagne, in particular, showed how to bat positively on a dead track hitting six boundaries in 67 balls.
As Shane Warne pointed out during commentary, it would be very difficult to chase any score in excess of 250 with variable bounce and the odd balls keeping low.
Pat Cummins (4/29 in 21.4 overs) was brilliant on an unresponsive track with some effective short-pitched bowling and got good support from Josh Hazlewood (2/43 in 21 overs) and Mitchell Starc (1/61 in 19 overs), having set up a leg-side trap.
To make matters worse for India, there were run-outs and two batsmen — Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja — were hit on the left elbow and left thumb respectively.
While both might come into bat in the second innings, Jadeja, with a swollen left thumb, will find it difficult to even grip the ball.
Earlier, Pujara’s ultra-defensive approach put tremendous pressure on his colleagues and India never quite got the momentum going as Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc continuously attacked the batsmen — first with a leg-side field and short-ball strategy and then on the corridor of uncertainty.(PTI)