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Pujara gives India steel in fightback

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27th August, 2021
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Cheteshwar Pujara has orchestrated a spirited India fightback with an unbeaten, career-reviving 91, holding up England’s charge towards a series-levelling victory in the third Test at Headingley.

Under pressure to save his place in the side, Pujara added 82 runs with Rohit Sharma and 99 with Virat Kohli to steer India to 2-215 when bad light brought an early end to Friday’s third day.

It left India still 139 runs behind, but it was a much-improved performance by the tourists who had wilted for 78 in their first innings.

Captain Kohli, who has had a subdued series so far, was still there on 45 and would hope to continue the good work when they resume on Saturday.

England’s Craig Overton, who grabbed one of the two Indian wickets to fall, now reckons that the Test will turn into “a real scrap” unless they can do damage with the new ball at the start of Day 4.

Cheteshwar Pujara

(Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP via Getty Images)

“We’re still in a good, or a great, position in this game and especially with a new ball in the morning. It will be massive, but we have to be on it from ball one,” said Overton.

“Hopefully we get a couple early and press on but, obviously, if they start really well we’ve got a real scrap of a game on.

“We knew they’d come back and fight, we know what they are like as a team and what their characters are like.

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“Credit to them, they played really well and made it hard for us, so we’ve got to come back and show what we can do again.”

Having conceded a massive lead of 354, India needed a strong start from their openers but Overton denied them.

KL Rahul was on six when Overton trapped him LBW but saw the verdict overturned. It was a short reprieve as Overton dismissed Rahul for eight after inducing an edge, which saw Jonny Bairstow dive to his left to pluck a stunning one-handed catch at second slip on the stroke of lunch.

Rohit and Pujara refused to throw in the towel, though, in the wicketless post-lunch session.

Rohit survived a couple of close LBW appeals and occasionally counter-attacked, including one audacious shot that saw him guide a rising Robinson delivery over the slip cordon for six.

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Pujara came out to bat with his team in dire straits and amid growing whispers about his future, having gone without a 50 in his previous 12 innings.

As if to silence criticism of his modest strike rate, the batsman hit three early boundaries, going at a run a ball before putting his head down and focusing on the rebuilding job.

Robinson ended the flourishing stand soon after the tea break when he trapped Rohit LBW for 59, a decision the batsman reviewed without success.

Pujara pulled Overton for a boundary to bring up a timely half-century. His urgency to score was best illustrated when Pujara, famed for his conventional batting, arched back to a rising Robinson delivery to play a preposterous ramp shot over the slip fielders for a boundary.

Earlier, England lost their last two wickets quickly to be all out for 432 in their robust reply to India’s meagre first innings total.

© AAP

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