Sydney: India's quest for a first series win in Australia looks all but assured after Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant scored milestone centuries and the tourists declared at 622-7 near stumps on day two of the fourth and final test against Australia on Friday.
Leading the series 2-1 and only needing to avoid defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground for a breakthrough tour win in Australia, Pujara scored 193 before Pant became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a hundred against Australia as India batted the hosts out of the contest at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Australia was 24 without loss from the 10 overs before stumps, with Marcus Harris on 19 and Usman Khawaja on five.
The day belonged to India as it enjoyed almost complete control against a tired looking Australia bowling attack with Pujara leading the way with his highest score outside India from 373 balls with 22 boundaries, giving the standout performer of the series 521 runs at an average of 74.4 in over 30 hours at the crease.
After seeing Pujara dropped by Khawaja his previous over, spinner Nathan Lyon finally got his man his next over, deceiving Pujara in flight and seeing the batsman chip a simple return catch to the bowler to end his nine-hour innings.
"You have to give India credit," Australia captain Tim Paine said. "I thought Pujara again was superb, he wore us down, which is what he always seems to do.
"He's extremely disciplined, extremely tough and hard to get out, and I thought that sort of set the scene for Rishabh Pant to come out and show his skill."
Pant and Jadeja then combined to keep grinding Australia down, scoring at will as the hosts used seven bowlers across the day to try, without any success, to swing momentum away from India.
Pant's innings was exceptional with the 21-year-old raising his second test century just after tea with his eighth boundary, before accelerating the scoring with some improvised strokes to speed past 150 in 183 balls.
"Every hundred which is scored in international level is special for me because I have just started my career," Pant said. "But I don't think about hundreds. I only think about one thing of what the team needs from me, that's the only goal I have."
Ravindra Jadeja also profited from the waning Australia attack in the late afternoon as he raised his 10th test half-century off 89 balls with a boundary and a six, before being bowled by Lyon attempting a heave to the legside boundary which prompted the declaration.
India captain Virat Kohli declared at the fall of Jadeja's wicket for 81, bowled by Lyon in the 168th over, which ended a 204-run partnership with Pant, who finished 159 not out.
"At the end of a long series you can get some real rewards if you can make teams bowl lots and lots of overs and that's what you saw late today," Paine said after his bowling attack had another long session in the field after bowling 170 overs in the third test last week. "You've got to tip your cap to India. They've worked extremely hard for three and a half tests to get us where they got us today."
Earlier, Lyon (4-178) got the only breakthrough of the morning session when he had Hanuma Vihari caught to end the 101-run partnership with Pujara midway through the session after India resumed this morning at 303-4.
Vihari added three to his overnight score of 39, before edging a sweep shot off Lyon onto his upper-arm and was caught by Marnus Labuschagne at bat-pad for 42.
On the first day, India won the toss and batted on a green-tinged SCG pitch with Mayank Agarwal (77) continuing his productive start to test cricket with his second half-century in as many matches as part of a 112-run partnership with Pujara.
Josh Hazlewood (2-105) claimed two wickets, including the prized wicket of Kohli for 23 and opener Lokesh Rahul for nine.
India first innings (overnight 303-4)
C. Pujara c & b Lyon 193
H. Vihari c Labuschagne b Lyon 42
R. Pant not out 159
R. Jadeja b Lyon 81
Extras (b2, lb13, w5) 20
Total (seven wickets dec, 167.2 overs) 622
Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Rahul), 2-126 (Agarwal), 3-180 (Kohli), 4-228 (Rahane), 5-329 (Vihari), 6-418 (Pujara), 7-622 (Jadeja)
Bowling: Starc 26-0-123-1, Hazlewood 35-11-105-2, Cummins 28-5-101-0, Lyon 57.2-8-178-4, Labuschagne 16-0-76-0, Head 4-0-20-0, Khawaja 1-0-4-0
Australia 1st innings
M. Harris not out 19
U. Khawaja not out 5
Total (0 wickets, 10 overs) 24
Bowling: Shami 3-0-9-0, Bumrah 3-0-12-0, Jadeja 2-1-1-0, Yadav 2-1-2-0