Cheteshwar Pujara’s magnificent form in the ongoing four-Test series against Australia continued as he slammed his 18th century and entered a very prestigious list of players to achieve a rare feat Down Under. Pujara’s ton was his third in the series, having scored match-winning centuries in the Adelaide and Melbourne Tests. The Saurashtra right-hander once again displayed his class and skill against an Australian attack determined to bowl India out cheaply on a wicket which had a fair covering of grass. Pujara’s knock and his partnership of over 100 with Mayank Agarwal laid the platform for India after Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat.
On 96, Pujara flicked a full ball from Mitchell Starc on his pads to the deep backward square leg fence for a boundary. In the process, he entered a very prestigious list of Indian players who have scored three centuries or more in a series against Australia. Sunil Gavaskar was the first one to hit three centuries in a single series during the 1977/78 series while Virat Kohli went one better when he blasted four centuries in the 2014/15 series where he hit 692 runs at an average of 86.
Pujara came in to bat when KL Rahul (9) failed yet again. However, he steadied the ship with Mayank Agarwal, with the Karnataka batsman employing a more positive approach to batting. Agarwal, who hit a fifty on debut in Melbourne, looked in good form by driving Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc with ease. Although he was troubled by the bouncer barrage, Agarwal looked in good shape while Pujara was solid as a rock.
The India No.3 batsman did get hit on the helmet by Starc which required a concussion test but he held firm. After hitting two sixes off Nathan Lyon, Agarwal departed for 77 but Pujara continued to make steady progress by reaching his fifty. With Virat Kohli (23) and Ajinkya Rahane (18) also falling cheaply, Pujara made steady progress and he entered the 80s with a couple of boundaries off Starc. The right-hander made smooth progress through the nervous 90s and he notched up the landmark in style.
With his third century, Pujara has gone past his previous tally of 438 runs in a series which he achieved against England in 2012 at home. It was the fourth time that Pujara played out 200 balls in a series, going past Gavaskar’s tally of three in the 1977/78 series against Australia. If Pujara plays out a further 150+ deliveries, he will surpass Rahul Dravid’s mark in 2003/04 of facing the most deliveries in a Test series in Australia.
The centuries in Adelaide and Melbourne gave India victories. Virat Kohli would be hoping that a ton in Sydney gives India a series win in Australia for the first time, which would make Pujara’s contributions historic.