Scorecard | Day 1 Report | Sehwag special
Cheteshwar Pujara illustrated to perfection his penchant for the prolonged knock with a maiden double century in just his seventh match, as India buried England under a pile of runs on the second day of the first Test at Motera, here on Friday.
India declared on 521-8 and then had England reeling on 41-3 in the 18 overs that the visitors had to contend with before close. It was all set up thanks to the 24-year-old Pujara, who resumed on 98 and batted with unwavering focus for the better part of three sessions to become India's youngest double centurion in 19 years - since Vinod Kambli made back-to-back doubles against England and Zimbabwe.
His unbeaten 206, collated over eight and a half hours, and Yuvraj Singh’s doughty 74 were the highlights for the hosts, before R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha spun out three England batsmen in a hurry. The openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton seemed to be negotiating well and had reached 26 without loss when Ashwin, who had opened the bowling and been hit for boundaries by Cook, struck.
Debutant Compton, after being deceived several times outside the offstump by Ojha, stood stupefied as Ashwin got an off-break to clatter viciously into the leg stump. This was the Chennai lad's 50th Test wicket, and it made him the quickest Indian bowler to the landmark in terms of matches played.
James Anderson, who had dropped Pujara on eight on Thursday, walked in as nightwatchman with a little over four overs to go. He lasted all of six balls before popping up a catch off Ojha to short leg, where Gautam Gambhir dove to his right to complete the formalities.
Ashwin had the measure of Jonathan Trott in the next over, an inside-edge bounding off the pads and into Pujara's hands at short leg. The visitors ended with a deficit of 480, the weight of which will play on their minds immensely as they resume on the morrow, the third day of this opening encounter. The follow-on mark of 322 also appears to be a distant mirage, unless Kevin Pietersen and captain Cook decide to take it upon themselves to resurrect their side; really, what better programme of reintegration could one have thought of!
India had earlier begun on 323-4 and added 198 more for the loss of Yuvraj, Dhoni, Ashwin and Zaheer Khan. Off-spinner Graeme Swann completed a five-for when Dhoni played on – the sixth wicket to fall - and Anderson was the lone pacer to claim a wicket when he took out Zaheer – the last man out - in the 158th over of the innings.
First session: Yuvraj fights back
It is difficult to rid Yuvraj Singh of what he’s been through in the last 12 months. But if in glorifying his recovery one was only acknowledging the utter powerlessness of humans at the mercy of nature, one could not have been more apt in approbating his courageous 74 on Friday.
Yuvraj resumed on 24 (alongside Pujara on 98) and survived bursts of vociferous appealing early in the session to gain in confidence. While someone like Virender Sehwag has carried his free-scoring ways from the shorter formats into Tests, Yuvraj has largely floundered in the classical version and has stated his intent of mounting a serious comeback into the Test team. He loosened up after Pujara completed his hundred and stepped out to loft Swann for six over mid-off, following it up with a flat-batted four in the same over.
Yuvraj lived dangerously, top-edging Swann into the vacant short fine leg region when he fudged another attempted sweep. Pujara too survived close calls when he edged a Swann ripper to wide of slip, the ball racing to the third man fence. A while later, the centurion padded up to the off-spinner, resulting in another huge overturned appeal and it was possibly Pujara’s big stride forward that saved him.
Pujara must have endured a sleepless night in anticipation of his second Test hundred. He thwarted England’s attempts at capitalizing on his cageyness so close to a landmark and raised his century in the fourth over of the day, after enduring a maiden over by Swann, who had opened things with Thursday’s four-over-old ball. Pujara’s ton, registered in 190 deliveries, was soon to swell into something bigger, but not before he lost two key partners in quick time.
Yuvraj reached his fifty in with a four off Samit Patel and then clubbed him for a sweet, straight six as the 100 partnership came up in a shade under 35 overs. India took lunch safe on 410-4 after a wicket-less session for England that yielded 81 runs.
Post lunch: India cross 500, Swann takes five
The first to go was Yuvraj, in the fourth over after resumption, to a shot as nauseating as the worst of therapeutic medicine – a brainless swipe off an ugly full toss down to long on, where Swann ensured he had a hand in each of the five wickets to fall. Thus ended Yuvi’s chance of a glorious hundred on comeback, but such is the fate of men!
If skipper MS Dhoni had any intention of upping the scoring rate for an early declaration, his 37-ball five gave no indications. The skipper’s strangely subdued stay came to an end when he became Swann’s fifth victim, going for the sweep and playing on. This was the England bowler’s 14th five-wicket haul, after he had surpassed the legendary Jim Laker as England’s leading all-time wicket-taking off-spinner on Thursday.
Pujara meanwhile was batting in the manner of the man he replaced. Stoically moving forward amid falling companions, bringing up his 150, breaching his previous top-score of 159, sighting a first double century. For company he had R. Ashwin, India’s leading off-spinner who has ambitions with the bat, and it was these two who took India past 500 at the stroke of tea.
Last session and declaration
Pujara’s appetite for runs was apparent in the way he paced his innings: a methodical, orthodox stride towards a colossal double, brought up with a single off Anderson shortly after tea. Ashwin feathered Kevin Pietersen to Matt Prior after a patient 23 and Zaheer Khan became the first wicket to fall to a fast bowler when he slashed Anderson to Trott at slip.
It appeared for a while that Pujara would run out of partners, but Harbhajan Singh’s frantic gesticulation at the boundary finally caught the attention of the umpires, and the innings was declared on 521-8. The scene was set for India's spinners to do the trick again, and Ashwin and Ojha, in familiar surroundings, did not disappoint.