Pujara double spells trouble for England

Ahmedabad, Nov. 17 -- Barring Virat Kohli, the rest of the India top order had fallen trying to play flamboyant strokes. It was a wicket where unless the batsman made a mistake, it was difficult to dislodge him. It would have given hope to the Englishmen that ultimately Cheteshwar Pujara too would do something silly and meet the same fate.

They waited endlessly for Pujara to commit an error, but the Saurashtra batsman did not play a false stroke on way to an unbeaten 206, which came after eight-and-a-half hours of toil.

The visitors, probably, paid the price for trying to coax him into a waiting game. The tactic also showed that England know little about the No 3 batsman's game, and, inadvertently, played into his hands.

Patience personified

More than milestones, Pujara loves to bat on endlessly. And, domestic players will vouch for that given the fact that the 24-year-old already has four triple hundreds to his name in all age groups, including one in first-class cricket.

His tremendous temperament shone through in the first innings of the inaugural Test, providing ample proof that he can become the lynchpin of India's batting and take over the mantle from Rahul Dravid.

Classical touch

His double hundred, made in classical style, helped India declare their innings on 521 for eight, a position from where they can dominate the game.

England, needing 322 to avoid the follow-on, were 41 for three at close on Day Two, with R Ashwin picking up two wickets and Pragyan Ojha one.

On a pitch where you wouldn't want to bat again, the opening session of the second day was always going to prove decisive.

With the home team commencing the second day on 323 for four, a couple of early wickets would have brought England back into the game.

However, with Yuvraj Singh giving able support to Pujara, India delivered the knockout punch by dominating the opening skirmish.

Eighty-seven runs were added till lunch, which took the total to 410 for four, with Pujara unbeaten on 133 and Yuvraj on 72. The highlight of the session was the assault on Swann in the over after Pujara had reached his hundred, with 15 runs coming off it.

Gritty Yuvraj

The fifth-wicket partnership ended soon after lunch when Yuvraj was out on 74. It was an impressive half-century from the left-hand batsman, who is making a fairytale comeback to Test cricket after recovering from cancer.

Even though, he was out to a full-toss, his stay at the crease had the same character he showed during the difficult phase of his life.

Earlier, Pujara was the obvious target of the Englishmen as they looked to unnerve the youngster, who was just two runs short of his hundred. But the restrained show of emotions on reaching the mark suggested that the batsman has a higher goal in mind.

The maturity he showed while anchoring the team to a mammoth total betrayed the fact that he was playing only his fifth Test.

The calmness with which he went about his task made him look like an accomplished veteran.

If England made Indians look like novices on seaming wickets last season, then the shoe is on the other foot now. The Englishmen are dancing to the tunes of Indian spinners and the signs are ominous.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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