Domain Tests v India
Pujara builds a Wall to frustrate Australia
India's first-drop channels a Test legend to thwart the hosts in Adelaide
Martin Smith at the Adelaide Oval
8 December 2018, 09:25 PM AEST
On the same day Virat Kohli joined the likes of Rahul Dravid in scoring his 1000th Test run in Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara continued a one-man defiance of Australia's bowlers that 'The Wall' himself would be proud of.
The importance of Pujara's first-innings 125 in the first Domain Test has only grown by the hour as every other batsman in the match has struggled to come to terms with a sporting Adelaide pitch.
The right-hander will resume tomorrow unbeaten on 40 in India's second innings having helped the tourists establish a lead of 166 that, with seven wickets still remaining, looms as a match-winning one.
Pujara has spent a total of 373 balls at the crease across both innings, more than double any other batsman in the match, and not yet been dismissed by Australia's bowlers, with the hosts needing a freakish run out from Pat Cummins on day one to end his innings.
"Knowing how tough the wicket can be with the new ball and the bowlers bowling well, he's played exceptionally well," said Australian Travis Head, the only other batsman to have faced more than 150 balls over the opening three days.
"The way he played in the first innings was the blueprint for this wicket.
"He had a really good leaving game, a good forward defence, he picked off his runs and then as the ball got softer, he got more runs."
It was in Adelaide 15 years ago that Dravid led India to a famous victory over Steve Waugh's Australian side, his match double of 233 and 72 not out in a breakthrough four-wicket win regarded as one of the best performances by an Indian player abroad.
The legendarily obdurate Dravid spent more than 14 hours at the crease in a high-scoring match at a time when Adelaide's reputation as a batting haven was at its zenith, with both sides scoring in excess of 500 in their first innings.
The fact neither team here managed more than 250 in their first dig, and that only one other batsman in the match so far has posted a half-century, has underlined both the change in the nature of the Adelaide strip in recent years and the importance of Pujara's performance.
"He's showed a lot of patience, that's the key element in Test cricket," teammate Jasprit Bumrah said.
"He knows his game in and out, he knows his strength … he knows to leave the ball and he's playing with the bowlers' patience as well. He's done that over the years and play with a lot of maturity.
"It's obviously been a great knock and hopefully he can continue tomorrow."
India will look to bat deep into Sunday's play, but attention has already turned to what kind of target is gettable for an inexperienced Australian batting line-up that has posted more than 250 just once in five Test innings since Justin Langer took over as coach.
Head, who captains South Australia in the JLT Sheffield Shield, said the fact both Western Australia and Queensland have posted scores in excess of 300 in the fourth innings of matches in Adelaide this season has given Australia hope that the pitch will get better for batting as the match progresses.
"This year bigger scores have been made and teams have batted out draws," he said.
"It's more of a new-ball wicket at the moment ... it's vital to win those moments when the new ball comes around again.
"The WACAs chased a lot a couple of weeks ago (featuring an unbeaten 161 from Test No.4 Shaun Marsh). On day four and five it gets easier to bat."
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: First Test, Adelaide Oval
Dec 14-18: Second Test, Perth Stadium
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Chris Tremain
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar