India lost the key wicket of Virat Kohli for 82 before consolidating to reach 346-4 at tea on Thursday’s second day of the third cricket test against Australia.

Cheteshwar Pujara (106) and Kohli added 170 runs for the third wicket before both departed in quick succession in the post-lunch session on a Melbourne Cricket Ground pitch that was starting to keep low.

Kohli had treatment on 75 for what appeared to be a back injury. The world No.1-ranked batsman immediately began to adopt a more attacking attitude.

It paid dividends initially, as Kohli scored a three and a four from aggressive pull shots, before upper-cutting a catch to third man in the same over from Mitchell Starc.

Kohli, who fell 18 runs short of his sixth test century of 2018, struck nine fours from 204 deliveries.

Three overs later, Pat Cummins (3-56 off 30 overs) bowled Pujara with a ball that kept alarmingly low. The manner of his dismissal left Pujara looking stunned, after he had been struck on the glove earlier in the over by a rising delivery.

The disciplined Pujara hit 10 fours in his 319-ball innings. It was the right-hander’s second century in the current series.

While Australia celebrated Pujara’s exit, the home side would have been concerned that the pitch could offer such variable bounce.

Ajinkya Rahane (30) and Rohit Sharma (13) shared an unbeaten partnership of 47 for the fifth wicket.

India had resumed on Thursday on 215-2 and advanced to 277-2 at lunch. Wednesday was the first time since 1970 that a full day’s play at the MCG on Boxing Day had featured less than three wickets.

Opener Mayank Agarwal scored 76 on Wednesday, the highest innings by an Indian test debutant in Australia.

The pitch for last year’s Melbourne test between Australia and England was officially rated as poor by the match referee after it ended in a dull draw. More poor ratings would mean the MCG is at risk of losing the right to host the Boxing Day test.

The four-test series is level at one-all.

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India's Virat Kohli bats during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
India’s Virat Kohli bats during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
India's Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates scoring a century during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
India’s Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates scoring a century during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
India's Cheteshwar Pujara, right is congratulated by team mate Virat Kohli after scoring a century during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
India’s Cheteshwar Pujara, right is congratulated by team mate Virat Kohli after scoring a century during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Australia's Travis Head, right, jumps to avoid a shot from India's Cheteshwar Pujara, left during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Australia’s Travis Head, right, jumps to avoid a shot from India’s Cheteshwar Pujara, left during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Dec. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Source: The Associated Press