Domain Tests v India
Ponting queries Pujara knock’s value
Australia legend questions India's slow scoring rate across first two days of vital third Test at the MCG
Martin Smith at the MCG
27 December 2018, 08:05 PM AEST
Former Test captain Ricky Ponting says India’s tactics for most of the Third Domain Test so far have been “a bit baffling”, adding Cheteshwar Pujara’s marathon innings will either be remembered as a famous match-winning knock or one that cost his side a chance at victory.
Ponting has also urged Australia to target Virat Kohli with the short ball for the rest of the series, saying Mitchell Starc’s sustained bouncer barrage that claimed the Indian skipper’s wicket on Thursday forced world’s No.1 Test batsman ‘out of his bubble’ and “got his eyes spinning a bit”.
India crept along at less than two-and-a-half runs an over for most of the first two days of the Test and at tea on day two had registered the slowest first-innings score of more than 300 in Australia for three decades.
None of India’s top five scored at a strike rate of more than 50, with Pujara soaking up 319 deliveries to score 106.
Ponting praised Pujara for scoring his second century of the series, but said the innings will be remembered one of two ways at the end of the match.
“If India go on and win the game, it’ll be a great innings (but) if they haven’t got time to bowl Australia out twice … it could be what actually costs them the game,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“I think it’s always hard for India to push the run rate along when Pujara’s there.
“He’s just made another hundred, his second of the series, so he’s playing well and doesn’t really look like getting out. But he just locks himself in this little bubble where scoring doesn’t seem to faze him at all.
“They’ve got other guys in their side who are stroke-makers … but if those guys don’t come off, the scoring rate is always going to be hovering around that two runs an over mark, which makes it pretty hard to win Test matches, especially on flat wickets like we might have here.
“Even (since Pujara’s dismissal), it just seems like they haven’t got a lot of direction about what they’re trying to achieve. It looks like they want to bat long enough to only bat once, but just yet they haven’t got enough runs to do that.
“Obviously they’ve talked long and hard about what they want to do, it’s just a bit baffling to us.”
Ponting also dismissed the suggestion that the Indians were playing the long game and were aiming to take advantage of an exhausted Australian bowling attack when the fourth Test starts in Sydney just three days after the MCG clash is scheduled to end.
“When presented with opportunities in Test matches to push on and win … I think you have to take them,” he said. “They shouldn’t be looking forward to next week.”
The dismissal of Kohli after lunch was a rare piece of joy for Australia on another difficult day, the right-hander caught at third man after a sustained short-ball attack by Starc from the Member’s End. Having initially tried to evade Starc’s bouncers, Kohli took the left-armer on and hit two crunching pull shots well forward of square to move into the eighties.
But from the very next ball, he attempted to push a short and wide delivery over the slip cordon but hit it straight to Aaron Finch on the boundary.
The Indian skipper also appeared to be hampered by a back problem during Starc’s spell, but Ponting said it was Australia’s tactics more than Kohli’s fitness that proved to be his downfall.
And he encouraged the hosts to use the strategy more as the series progresses.
“The ball before he got out, he played a really good pull shot over mid-on, so he looked like he was moving free enough at that stage,” Ponting said.
“I just think it was the intent that was shown. I’d love to see them start more that way against Kohli.
“He doesn’t play too many cross-bat shots early on (in his innings), so I think that’s maybe something the Australians could look at and target for the rest of the series.
“(It) actually forced Kohli, and Pujara to a certain degree, out of their bubble. Both of those guys were in their bubble, they weren’t taking any risks and they were playing the way they wanted to play.
“One spell from Starc with some good short stuff at Kohli (and) he started to play a few more shots and just got his eyes spinning a little bit.
“He’ll look back and think ‘why on earth did I play that shot?’.
“But it was on the back of some good hostile fast bowling and that’s the reason you play shots like that.”
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: India won by 31 runs
Dec 14-18: Australia won by 146 runs
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, Archie Schiller
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, 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