MELBOURNE: India declared at 443 for seven in the third Test against Australia Thursday, built on the back of a century by Cheteshwar Pujara and 82 from captain Virat Kohli.
Dogged Pujara stroked 106 before he and Kohli fell soon after lunch in a major breakthrough for the home team on what until then had been a lifeless Melbourne pitch offering little for the bowlers.
Rohit Sharma was not out 63 when the declaration was called with seven overs left in the day for Australia's batsmen to survive.
Pat Cummins took 3-72 and Mitchell Starc 2-87.
Earlier Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma added 47 runs for the fifth wicket as India reached 346 for 4 at tea. At the break, Rahane was batting on 30 not out, while Sharma was unbeaten on 13 runs, as the duo undertook a rebuilding job after Australia removed both Cheteshwar Pujara (106) and Virat Kohli (82) in the space of four overs.
Post lunch, Kohli-Pujara took their third-wicket partnership to 170 runs before the game turned.
The Indian skipper took medication for some back issue and then stepped through the gears as he brought out two pulls against Mitchell Starc (1/68) in the 123rd over.
He pressed on the accelerator a tad too much, and cut straight to third man, much to the bowler's delight to be dismissed for 82.
Four overs later, in the 126th, Pujara got a delivery from Pat Cummins (3/56) that kept a tad low and knocked back his stumps as India were suddenly reduced to 299/4.
Rahane then took charge of proceedings and played a breezy knock, not allowing the Australian attack to get on top.
In comparison, Rohit was more sedate and took his time at the crease, even as Tim Paine targeted him with some banter. There was not any major change in the pace of scoring though, with 36 runs coming in the first hour after lunch, and 33 runs in the second.
Earlier, Pujara scored his 17th hundred as India reached 277/2 at lunch.
Starting from overnight 215/2, India looked ready for another hard day's grind, with Kohli reaching his 20th Test half-century, off 110 balls, in the very first over of the day.
The two batsmen scored quickly in the first hour and kept the scorecard ticking over, before Australia went back to their tactic of cutting runs.
Cummins bowled another wonderful spell, extracting most out of the pitch than any other Australian bowler, and he beat the edges of both batsmen on a couple occasions but without any luck.
Nathan Lyon bowled with a predominantly leg-side field and into the batsmen. His duel with Pujara was quite remarkable, as the batsman kept turning him to the onside again and again.
On the rare occasion, Lyon pulled his length back and Pujara used his feet well and drove him to the offside against the turn. He played a couple of brilliant cover drives in this method and sped to his hundred in the second hour of play.
At the other end, Kohli had his moments. After being dropped on 47 on day one, he rode his luck flashing through the gap between slips and gully. He was beaten more than Pujara, but also mixed it with glorious drives, particularly one down the ground onside.
Australia kept a tight leash on the scoring rate as 62 runs came from 28 overs in this morning session. Even so, they could not deny Pujara who reached his second hundred of this series off 280 balls just before to lunch.
In doing so, he went past his previous best tally of runs scored in an overseas Test series. He had scored 309 runs in Sri Lanka in 2017, and currently has 325 runs in this ongoing series.
On day one, Mayank Agarwal (76) scored his maiden Test half-century after India won the toss and opted to bat.
The four-match series is pegged at 1-1, after India won the first Test in Adelaide by 31 runs and Australia took the second Test in Perth by 146 runs.