Rajkot, Inspired by a late strike by their bowlers, England managed to turn the momentum towards them as India reached 319/4 at stumps on day three of the opening Test at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Friday.
In reply to England’s first innings knock of 537, India rode on defiant centuries by opener Murali Vijay (126) and local boy Cheteshwar Pujara (124), who stitched a 209-run stand for the second wicket after opener Gautam Gambhir (29) was sent back in the morning session.
Both Pujara and Vijay reached their respective tons in the post-tea session as the duo took India to 277/1 before being separated by pacer Ben Stokes.
Pujara, who hit 17 boundaries in his 206-ball knock, attempted a shortish ball outside the off stump from Stokes only to land in skipper Alastair Cook’s hands at wide slip.
Pujara’s wicket brought in skipper Virat Kohli (26 not out), who along with Vijay added 41 runs for the third wicket before leg-spinner Adil Rashid sent back the Tamil Nadu right-hander.
Vijay, who switched gears after reaching his career’s seventh century, blasted nine boundaries and four sixes in his 301-ball innings.
Vijay’s vigil was over minutes before the close of play after he mistimed a googly from the leggie which popped off the glove straight to Haseeb Hameed at short leg.
Night-watchman Amit Mishra then joined Kohli but the leg-spinner could only last two deliveries and fell to left-armer Zafar Ansari before the stumps were drawn for the day. Kohli, on the other hand, consumed 70 deliveries for his 26 which contained three hits to the fence.
Earlier, Pujara and Vijay continued to bat steadily as India reached 228/1 at tea.
Pujara weathered some rough attention from the England pacers in the early part of his inning and was unbeaten on 99 when tea was called. Vijay was batting on 86 at the other end.
The day did not start too brightly for the hosts. Gambhir and Vijay, who produced an opening stand of 68, could only add five runs to India’s overnight score when the Delhi southpaw was trapped leg before by Stuart Broad on 29.
Gambhir moved too far across his stumps and was hit on his pads in front of the middle and off stumps. The Delhi left-hander, who has made a comeback to the Test squad after a prolonged absence, hit four boundaries during his 72-delivery stay in the middle.
Pujara then joined Vijay and the duo ensured that the hosts lost no more wickets and at lunch had compiled an unbeaten partnership of 94 runs.
Pujara did face some trouble against the England pacers, particularly Chris Woakes, who rapped him three times on the helmet.
Both Pujara and Vijay were much better against the England spinners, however, and Vijay brought up his half-century in style with a six over long-on off left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari.
Vijay, however, was lucky to survive on three occasions, getting a leading edge when looking to drive Ansari against the turn, edging Woakes wide of slip, and not picking a Rashid delivery in the last over before lunch.
After lunch, Pujara and Vijay batted steadily, albeit a bit slowly to add 66 runs by the tea break to further consolidate India’s position.
Pujara survived a scare while on 86 when the umpire adjudged him leg before off Ansari’s bowling. The Indians called for review of the verdict and the much maligned Decision Review System (DRS) came to Pujara’s rescue.
The Saurashtra batsman survived a few nervous minutes going into the tea break, consuming eight balls on 99 before the teams went in for the break.
For the visitors, Broad, Ansari, Rashid and Stokes took one wicket apiece