India believe they have enough runs on the board to be able to force a result even though they had to bat almost two days for their score of 443 for 7. Cheteshwar Pujara, who batted 319 balls and spent 116.5 overs at the wicket, has seen enough misbehaviour in the pitch to give him confidence.
“It’s a tough pitch to score runs on,” Pujara said. “If we look at the first two days, the number of runs scored is [relatively small]. In a way, I would say that 200 in a day is a tough task so I think we have enough runs on the board.
“As we saw today, the pitch has already started deteriorating and has variable bounce on it. When I was batting yesterday and today, I felt there was a difference, and I don’t think it’s easier to bat now. From tomorrow I think it will get difficult to bat, and our bowlers have been bowling well so I think we have enough runs on the board.”
This has been a pitch that has strangely both met the expectations and also confounded. Everybody expected it to be low and slow, which it is, but nobody expected it to deteriorate so much in two days that balls pitched from an identical spot back of a length have hit Pujara’s fingers and also his stumps. As a result, it has been difficult to score quickly and to run through batsmen, but India are optimistic now.
“As batsmen it is tough to get used to this pace,” Pujara said. “You will feel it is slow, and then the odd ball kicks up, and I got hit on my finger three-four times. Those were not short balls. They were back of a length, and I got hit on my gloves. As a batsman there is always doubt when playing on such pitches, and I couldn’t have done anything about the ball that I got out to. So if it stays low, you have limited options.
“I had to work really hard to get to my hundred. I had to bat almost more than four sessions to reach a hundred, which is hardly the [usual] case. Whenever I have batted I have got hundreds in three or four sessions, but in this game it looked I might have to bat more than four sessions to get to the hundred. It is a challenging pitch; as a batsman, I felt scoring was really difficult and, seeing the variable bounce, it will get tougher to bat on.”
Aaron Finch, too, was left surprised by the deterioration. “This wicket is probably deteriorating more than we thought it would,” Finch said. “Even tonight it was skidding through, there were a couple that took off, so it’s still game on if we bat well and put India under pressure. I think all three results are still on the table, 100%. India, Australia and a draw.”
An Australia win might be a touch optimistic to think of because they have a big batting innings to put in against bowlers who are good at attacking the stumps on a pitch keeping low.