Cheteshwar Pujara slammed a sparkling unbeaten 135 as India gained firm control of the first cricket Test against South Africa with the top-order showing remarkable application to give the visitors a substantial overall lead of 320 here today.
The Indians first bundled out the hosts for 244 for a slender first innings lead of 36 runs and then batted with purpose and maturity to reach 284 for two at close on an eventful third day’s play with Pujara again showing his apetite for a big score with an unbeaten knock of
The 25-year-old Pujara notched up his sixth Test century while the in-form Virat Kohli is looking good for another big score as he is batting on 77.
The duo put on 191 runs for the unbroken third-wicket stand in only 44.1 overs as South Africa were dealt with a telling blow of Morne Morkel being ruled out of the match due to a ligament tear in his ankle while fielding.
Pujara, who was dropped on 51 by leggie Imran Tahir off his own bowling, made full use of the reprieve as he hit 18 boundaries in 221 balls. Unlike first innings, Kohli played the second fiddle hitting eight fours off 132 balls as South African captain Graeme Smith couldn’t devise a strategy to get the duo out.
With two full days left in the game, the visitors will now try to extend the lead further by piling up some quick runs and then hope to dismiss the Proteas who will have to bat last on a deteriorating Wanderers track.
In the morning, veteran Zaheer Khan (4/88) took three of the remaining four wickets as South Africa could add only 31 runs to their overnight score of 213 for six.
Zaheer now has 299 wickets in Test matches and will need only one more to become the fourth Indian bowler after Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh to enter the ’300-club’.
Ishant Sharma also picked up a wicket today to end up with impressive figures of four for 79.
For Pujara, this was his first Test century away from home and his sequence of scores in the last four first-class matches (including this one) reads 113 (vs West Indies), 102, 9, 269 (in Ranji Trophy) and 135 batting in this game.
Having missed out on a big score after being set in the first innings, Pujara brought up his 50 in the 46th over before Tahir spilled the return catch. India duly crossed the 150-run mark in the 49th over, and the lead swelled to 200 runs in the 53rd.
The runs came at a fast clip as both Pujara and Kohli didn’t miss out on punishing the loose deliveries.
In the 61st over, after drinks, Pujara drove Steyn to the boundary and completed his sixth Test hundred.
The ball was changed in the 67th over, as the Indian batsmen had beaten the previous one out of shape, while India’s 250 runs came up the next over. Finally, the 300-run lead came in the 74th over, as the two batsmen looked to play for the close. (PTI)
India 1st innings: 280
South Africa 1st innings:
Graeme Smith lbw b Khan 68
Alvero Petersen lbw b I Sharma 21
Hashim Amla b I Sharma 36
Jacques Kallis lbw b I Sharma 0
AB de Villiers lbw b Mohammed Shami 13
JP Duminy c Vijay b Mohammed Shami 2
Faf du Plessis c Dhoni b Khan 20
Vernon Philander c Ashwin b Khan 59
Dale Steyn c RG Sharma b I Sharma 10
Morne Morkel b Khan 7
Imran Tahir not out 0
Extras: (lb 4, w 1, nb 3) 8
Total: (all out in 75.3 overs) 244
Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-130, 3-130, 4-130, 5-145, 6-146, 7-226, 8-237, 9-239, 10-244.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 26.3-6- 88-4, Mohammed Shami 18-3-48-2, Ishant Sharma 25-5-79-4, Ravichandran Ashwin 6-0-25-0.
India 2nd innings:
Shikhar Dhawan c Kallis b Philander 15
Murali Vijay c de Villiers b Kallis 39
Chesteshwar Pujara batting 135
Virat Kohli batting 77
Extras: (b-5, lb-5, w-8) 18
Total: (For 2 wicket in 78 overs) 284
Fall of wickets: 1-23, 2-93
Bowling: Steyn 21-4-64-0, Philander 18-5-53-1, Morkel 2-1-4-0, Kallis 14-4-51-1, Tahir 11-0-55-0, De Villiers 1-0-5-0, JP Duminy 110-42-0.