Resurgent Pujara leads India’s resistance at Headingley
Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot during the third day’s play in Headingley Test. (Reuters/Lee Smith)
CHETESHWAR PUJARA orchestrated India’s spirited resistance with an unbeaten career-reviving 91 but England remained on course for a series-levelling victory in the third Test at Headingley on Friday (27).
Under pressure to save his place in the side, Pujara added 82 runs with Rohit Sharma and 99 with Virat Kohli to steer India to 215 for 2 when bad light stopped third day’s play.
India are still 139 runs behind but it was a much-improved performance by the tourists who had wilted for 78 in their first innings to be on the back foot.
Captain Kohli, who has had a subdued series so far, was batting on 45 and would hope to continue the good work when they resume on Saturday (28).
Having conceded a massive lead of 354, India needed a strong start from their openers but Craig Overton denied them.
KL Rahul was on six when he successfully got an lbw verdict against him overturned but it did not really matter in the end.
Overton dismissed Rahul for eight inducing an edge and Jonny Bairstow dived to his left to pluck a stunning one-handed catch at second slip on the stroke of lunch.
Rohit and Pujara refused to throw in the towel though in the wicketless post-lunch session.
Rohit was content nudging the ball around but occasionally counter-attacked, like when he guided a rising Ollie Robinson delivery over the slip cordon for six.
Pujara came out to bat with his team in dire straits and amid growing whispers about his future, having gone without a fifty in his previous 12 innings.
As if to silence criticism of his modest strike rate, the batsman hit three early boundaries, going at a run-a-ball rate before putting his head down and focusing on the rebuilding job.
Robinson ended the flourishing stand soon after the tea break when he trapped Rohit lbw for 59, a decision the batsman reviewed without success.
Pujara pulled Overton for a boundary to bring up a timely half-century which would release some of the pressure that has been mounting on him.
His urgency to score was best illustrated when Pujara, famed for his conventional batting, arched back to a rising Robinson delivery to play an audacious ramp shot over the slip fielders for a boundary.
Earlier, England lost their last two wickets quickly to be all out for 432 in their robust reply to India’s meagre first innings total.