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Pujara and Rahane put India on top

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Manjrekar: KL Rahul has come of age (5:01)

Sanjay Manjrekar talks about KL Rahul's batting in the two innings, what Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahana did to fight back, and more (5:01)

India 189 and 213 for 4 (Pujara 79*, Rahul 51, Rahane 40*, Hazlewood 3-57) lead Australia 276 (S Marsh 66, Renshaw 60, Jadeja 6-63) by 126 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Four years ago, in the second Test of the series in Hyderabad, Cheteshwar Pujara was part of a match-winning stand against Australia, a massive 370-run partnership with M Vijay. It was so colossal an achievement that the partnership alone beat Australia, who failed to make 370 in both innings combined. The events of Pune last week prove that things are different this year, yet once again Australia have found Pujara a major obstacle in the second Test of the series.

This time, his significant partnership was with Ajinkya Rahane, and by stumps on the third day in Bengaluru, it was not even worth a hundred runs. But a price could not be put on its value. It is the partnership that turned this match firmly in India's favour, and may yet keep alive their hopes of regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. On a difficult, dry, cracking pitch, this partnership spanned the entire final session and lifted India's lead to 126 runs.

And it is not over yet. As the players walked off at the close of play, Pujara was undefeated on 79 and Rahane was unbeaten on 40. Their partnership stood at 93, and India's total was 213 for 4. And Australia knew that this Test, a wrestling match which they dominated on the first day but which India fought back into on days two and three, was at risk of slipping away from them. A chase of 150 would be no gimme; a chase of 250 would give them nightmares.

It was a day that could easily be broken down into session victories. India won the first session, in which Ravindra Jadeja ran through Australia's tail to complete a six-wicket haul and keep Australia's lead to 87, and then India's openers reached 38 without loss. Australia won the second session by snaring four key wickets. But India prevailed in the last session, adding 91 without losing a wicket, and thus unquestionably won the day.

Perhaps it has been surprising, given the nature of the pitch, that only six wickets fell on the second day of this Test and eight on the third day. There continued to be variable bounce, some deliveries skidding through at ankle height and others bouncing truly. The cracks opened up further, the spinners found turn, the fast men jagged some deliveries sideways. And yet Pujara, Rahane and, earlier, KL Rahul, showed that the pitch could be tamed.

They played straight and watched carefully for the low bounce, but when given anything short or wide they took their scoring opportunities. Rahul was important in setting India away on a positive note, especially after his opening partner Abhinav Mukund was bowled by Josh Hazlewood for 16. Rahul played outstandingly for his 51, before he drove hard at Steve O'Keefe and was brilliantly caught by first slip Steven Smith, diving quickly to his right to the vacant second slip position.

It was one of two moments in the middle session that could have derailed India's progress. The other came when Virat Kohli was adjudged lbw to a delivery from Hazlewood that stayed a touch low. Kohli immediately asked for a review, confident that his edge would be detected, but after a series of closely-inspected replays, the third umpire Richard Kettleborough could not be sure whether the ball had hit pad or bat first, and the on-field decision stood.

That left India at 112 for 3, which soon became 120 for 4 when Jadeja, promoted to No.5, drove lustily at Hazlewood shortly before tea and was bowled. India's lead was only 33 runs, and Australia knew that if they could quickly find a way into the lower order they could set themselves on the path to victory. But Pujara and Rahane had other ideas. Calmly, they compiled a stand that frustrated Australia while also building a precious advantage.

Certainly, Pujara made Smith pay for dropping him on 4, failing to cling on to a sharp chance off the bowling of Nathan Lyon. Pujara went on to bring up his fifty off 125 balls, and by stumps had survived for 173 deliveries. At the other end, Rahane had safely negotiated 105 deliveries, and Australia needed to regroup before the start of play on day four to fight back into the match. They know that more batting - Karun Nair and Wriddhiman Saha - is still to come.

But they also know that wickets can fall quickly in the morning, for that is what happened to Australia themselves on the third day. They began with a lead of 48 and added only 39 for the loss of their last four wickets. R Ashwin had Mitchell Starc caught slogging to deep midwicket, before Jadeja ran through the remaining three wickets to finish with 6 for 63, the second-best figures of his Test career.

At one point, Jadeja was on a hat-trick, having trapped Matthew Wade and Lyon lbw with successive deliveries. Hazlewood survived the hat-trick ball, but not much longer than that. Australia had lasted less than 17 overs from their overnight position. Perhaps only a similarly swift resolution to the India innings on the fourth morning will keep Australia in this match.