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Australia v India Test series 2017: Cheteshwar Pujara's epic innings tilts third Test in India's favour

Ranchi: Australia's reprogrammed batsmen face a major examination of their mettle if they are to save the third Test after Cheteshwar Pujara produced an epic innings to join Indian cricket royalty and bat the visitors out of the game.

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Pujara hit a record breaking double century as Australia lost crucial wickets in the last overs of play on day four.

The best Steve Smith's men can hope for on the last day is a draw after Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha brought back memories of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid's wonders in Kolkata in 2001.

Australia's miserable fourth day ended disastrously when they lost two late wickets, David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon with the final ball of the day. They limped to stumps precariously placed at 2-23, a deficit of 129.

Much responsibility lies again on Smith's shoulders if Australia are to head to Dharamsala with the series still locked at 1-1. To do this, they will need to bat deep into the final session.

"We have got to save the game," coach Darren Lehmann said after play. "It was tough to lose those two wickets, some good balls from them, so the challenge for the group is to put into practice on the big stage what we've learned.


"Once the ball gets a little bit softer it plays really well. There's no real demons in the track, it's about us applying ourselves as Pujara and Saha did today.

"They've done a lot of practice in those sort of conditions, I am really confident they can do the job tomorrow. We will see how we go."

While India made the Ranchi pitch resemble a batsman's paradise, with only one left-hander in their line-up they were not in as much peril to the scuff created by the bowlers. It is already causing alarm for Australia, who have four southpaws in the top seven compared to India's zero.

They have already lost Warner to this danger, bowled by a ripping turner out of the rough by Ravindra Jadeja. Nobody seemed more pleased than Kohli, who grabbed his injured shoulder in a fashion that suggests he knows he will have the last laugh.

"If they bowl 10 of those so be it," Lehmann said. "They've done a lot of practice in those sort of conditions. I'm really confident they will do the job tomorrow."

Momentum in this hard-fought series is now firmly with India, who have not only given themselves a show of winning here, but they have made a significant downpayment for the final Test by running Australia's attack into the ground.

Pujara and Saha came together late on the third day and were not separated until after tea on the fourth, their 199-run partnership the highest for the seventh wicket for India against Australia.

Pujara, who batted for more than 11 hours, joined Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman as the only Indians to have hit two double centuries against Australia. Saha also joined in the run-fest, completing his third Test ton.

India ended Australia's misery late in the final session when Virat Kohli called his batsmen in upon breaking through the 600 mark.

No bowler will be feeling the pinch more than comeback kid Pat Cummins after the world No.1 kept the visitors in the field for 210 overs, the 10th longest in terms of balls bowled in Australia's Test history.

This was the type of scenario Australia's brains trust had been dreading when they gambled on the highly talented but injury-prone Cummins.

The pace ace, who came into the match with only one first-class game since the 2015 Ashes tour, did well to back up on Saturday but asking any paceman to bowl three days straight is tough.

He bowled 39 overs in the first innings, five short of his game total of 44 on his debut in 2011 after which he broke down, and more than most in the Australian camp would have thought was required given the nature of the pitches in the first two Tests.

Should he pull through, he cannot be considered an automatic selection for the fourth Test starting on Saturday due to his long injury history.

They were rewarded for their boldness on Saturday but the fourth day did not pan out anywhere near as well as the visitors had been hoping.

From the moment Saha successfully overturned a leg-before-wicket verdict against him, things went pear-shaped for Australia.

Saha's innings allowed Pujara to bat big and enable India to produce the first innings score Australia have been saying is required for success on these shores.

There was more frustration nearing lunch when Saha, on 51, again had an lbw call overturned.

When Australia belatedly ended the Pujara-Saha stand, they were given another insult by Jadeja, who whacked a whirlwind 54 off 55 balls.