Led by a brilliant 193 from Cheteshwar Pujara, India amassed a mammoth 622-7 in their first innings of the final Test before skipper Virat Kohli announced the declaration.
Despite Pujara’s continued brilliance, it was a day that clearly belonged to Rishabh Pant who became the first Indian wicketkeeper in history to register a Test ton on Australian soil.
Here, we take a closer look at the youngster’s displays on day two.
RUNS SCORED: 159
BALLS FACED: 189
Pant arrived at the crease following the dismissal of Hanuma Vihari and took no time in settling down on a day where conditions were perfect for batting.
The 21-year-old provided able support at the other end to Cheteshwar Pujara in the early half of his innings and changed gears once the top-order India batsman was dismissed for 193.
Bringing out all the shots in his book, Pant cruised towards his second Test hundred and grew even more assertive after reaching three figures. The Delhi man forged a record 204-run seventh-wicket stand along with Ravindra Jadeja and remained unbeaten on 159 before Virat Kohli declared India’s first innings with an hour left to play.
Pant has always been an explosive batsman but he curbed much of his attacking instincts in the early stages of his innings. The young wicketkeeper-batsman was content to play second fiddle to Pujara through quick rotation of the strike and that served him well as he settled down nicely at the crease.
He only changed gears once Pujara had departed and did not take too many undue risks until he brought up a special century. Once past the 100-run mark, Pant showed his attacking flair as he took his toll on a tiring Aussie bowling attack.
There was not much that the India youngster got wrong as he showed some excellent temperament to pace his innings beautifully. There were, however, a few bundles of nerves from Pant once he entered the 90s.
That tentativeness was understandable from Pant given his inexperience and the fact that it is his first tour of Australia.
The only mistake from Pant on day two which could prove costly was the reprieve he handed Usman Khawaja in the third over of Australia’s innings. Mohammed Shami drew an outside edge from the Aussie opener but Pant failed to hold on to a straightforward chance.
There can be no complaints so far about Pant’s batting but his glove work still needs a lot of work if he is to become a Test mainstay.
VERDICT – 9/10
His dropped catch of Khawaja takes some sheen off Pant’s scintillating display on Thursday but there is no denying that India have a gem on their hands with his emergence.
His innings was full of confidence and it showed that the youngster can mix some excellent temperament to go with his, at times, outrageous shot-making.
That he is now ahead of Kohli in the run-tally for the series and only behind Pujara speaks volumes about the progress the youngster from Delhi has made since making his international bow in August.
To become the first Indian wicketkeeper to register Test tons in both England and Australia is no small feat for any player, let alone someone still in the first year of his Test career.
His batting has shades of Adam Gilchrist and he possesses the tools to become one of the best wicketkeeper-batsmen in India’s history. If he can sort out his glove work, there is no doubt that Pant can become India’s long-term answer to the wicketkeeping slot.
Rishabh Pant's 159* is the second-highest Test score by a visiting wicketkeeper in Australia, behind only ABdV's 169 in Perth, 2012 #AUSvIND— Adam Burnett (@AdamBurnett09) January 4, 2019
Resuming from their overnight score of 303-4, India’s batsmen continued to prosper at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Thursday with the tourists ultimately declaring their first innings at 622-7.
In response, Australia had reached 24-0 before stumps were drawn on day two.
At the end of another excellent day for the tourists, we look at the key takeaways.
EXCELLENT PUJARA MISSES OUT ON DOUBLE TON
Despite all the focus on Virat Kohli, it is Cheteshwar Pujara who has stolen the show Down Under with his excellent ton on day one at Sydney marking his third of the series. After putting India in an excellent position on Thursday with his unbeaten 130, Pujara drove home the advantage even further on day two.
The classical batsman continued to build his innings in characteristic fashion as he further swelled his run tally for the series. With the conditions making it the perfect day to bat, Pujara continued to take his toll on Australia’s bowlers in the company of young Rishabh Pant.
The right-hander was looking on course for a special double ton but missed out agonisingly by seven runs as he fell to Nathan Lyon for only the second time in the series. A leading edge while attempting to whip the delivery towards the leg side was gobbled up by the Australian off-spinner himself as the Sydney crowd rose on its feet to give Pujara the standing ovation his superb innings deserved.
PANT SHOWS HIS WORTH WITH RECORD TON
If Australia’s bowlers thought that seeing the back of Pujara would provide some respite, they were grossly mistaken with Rishabh Pant pulling out a record innings from his drawer.
The youngster had batted patiently in the company of Pujara but once the India top-order batsman fell, Pant took centre stage at Sydney as he brought out his natural attacking instincts. With not much help on the pitch for either pacers or spinners, Pant made merry in the company of Ravindra Jadeja with the duo putting on a 204-run stand for the seventh wicket.
Pant survived some minor hiccups in the nervous 90s but he would not be denied the second ton of his still fledgling Test career. In doing so, the 21-year-old became only the first Indian wicketkeeper in history to score a Test century on Australian soil.
To put Pant’s innings in perspective, the youngster has now scored more runs in Australia in just one series than his predecessor MS Dhoni had managed in three tours of the country combined.
AUSSIE OPENERS SURVIVE BUT INDIA ON THE VERGE OF HISTORY
With Virat Kohli calling in India’s batsmen with an hour of play still left on day two, Australia’s openers were in for a testing period against the new ball.
Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris did well to safely negotiate the 10 overs despite the former getting a reprieve from Pant. However, the hosts can kiss their chances of scripting a win in the Test goodbye given the mammoth total put up by India.
With three days left to play along with the prospect of some rain over the weekend, only two results look possible at the moment and none of them sees Australia winning. Stranger things have happened in Test cricket but it would take a collapse of epic proportions from the tourists at this stage to give Australia any chance of victory.
In the end, it was a day which all but sealed India’s first Test series win in Australia.
According to a report by PakPassion, Sohail requires a further three to four weeks to make a recovery and thus will not be able to take part in the upcoming second and third Tests against the Proteas.
The left-hander was all set to feature for Pakistan in the series opener at Centurion before pulling out on the morning of the first day with a knee injury.
In his place, Shan Masood was given a go in the playing XI with the middle-order batsman chipping in with a solid 65 in the second innings.
With Sohail out of the remainder of the tour, Masood is expected to keep his spot in the playing XI in the second Test at Newlands, Cape Town which gets underway on Thursday.
29-year-old Sohail has so far played 10 Tests for Pakistan in which he has scored 721 runs at an average of 40. The Sialkot-born batsman has been plagued with recurring knee injuries ever since he made his ODI debut in 2013.
Sarfraz Ahmed and his Pakistan team currently trail 0-1 in the three-match series against South Africa after going down by six wickets in the opening Test at Centurion.