South Africa vs India: Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane end ‘purane’ debate with gritty fifties on Day 3

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane in action on Day 3

Senior batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were already on a short leash when the notable omission of Virat Kohli from the Indian line-up demanded more responsibility from the batting duo in the 2nd Test against South Africa.

However, following a series of poor performances, both Rahane and Pujara once again failed to deliver the goods when their team needed it the most. While Pujara was undone for a mere three runs, Rahane was sent back into the hut for a golden duck in the first innings.

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Safe to say, if it wasn’t for KL Rahul (50) and Ravichandran Ashwin (46), India would have found themselves well short of the 202-run total at the Wanderers. Sadly, both Rahane and Pujara had averaged under 26 since January 2020, which explained why their dismal outing attracted heavy criticism from all corners.

Thus, as opined by great Sunil Gavaskar, both Rahane and Pujara were probably batting for their careers when the duo embarked on a gritty partnership to bail India out of trouble in the second innings. The right-handers added a crucial 111 runs for the third wicket to keep the Proteas at bay.

Batting with their backs against the wall, the under-fire Indian batsmen also managed to notch up their respective half-centuries in what looked like a befitting reply to their critics. They did miss out on what could have been career-redeeming tons, but the batting efforts of Rahane and Pujara still managed to elate fans on social media.

Following their dismissals, Rishabh Pant (0), too, departed in quick succession before Ashwin (16) joined him a few overs later. Hanuma Vihari (25*) and Shardul Thakur (28) added 41 runs for the sixth wicket before the latter was dismissed by Marco Jansen.

While Vihari held fort at one end, India kept losing wickets at the other. With Mohammed Siraj accompanying him at the crease, Vihari will be expected to frustrate the hosts in a bid to increase India’s lead on Day 3.