Match report: Ind vs Eng – 1st Test, Day 2
Ahmedabad, Nov 16: After India declared their first innings at 521/8, England were tottering on 41 for three at stumps on the second day with Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen at the crease in Motera. With an unbeaten 206 Cheteshwar Pujara took India to a commanding position in the first game of the four-Test series, while the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha struck early blows to put India in the driver’s seat.
Coming in at No 3, Pujara who has made a name for himself as a big innings player in the domestic circuit hit his maiden double-century in only his sixth Test. The youngster was a picture of patience as he helped India pile on runs at the Sardar Patel Stadium. Being pegged as a replacement for Rahul Dravid can weigh down a young cricketer, but Pujara has risen to the challenge with two long and patient innings since the ‘The Wall’ bid adieu to cricket.
Earlier, the duo of Pujara and Yuvraj Singh added 87 runs in the first session without losing a wicket. The top-order bat who was two runs short of his ton yesterday reached the three-figure mark with a single to deep square-leg off Stuart Broad in the fourth over. In the next over he hit Graeme Swann for superb on-drive, while Yuvraj Singh followed up with a six and a four as they collected 15 runs from the over, putting the pressure back on the spinner and England and seizing the initiative back early in the day.
A few overs later, the comeback man of Indian cricket, Yuvraj, brought up his 11th half-century with a boundary over mid-wicket off Samit Patel. The intent was clear as the pair worked the ball around and waited for loose deliveries to pick boundaries and the odd six. Pujara who was the aggressive partner when he came in to bat during his partnership with Sehwag yesterday had once again shown that he can adapt to any situation. He paced his innings, effortlessly slipping into the role of sheet anchor and shouldered the responsibility of helping India post a formidable total. He was ably supported by Yuvraj. A natural stroke player, the middle-order batsman too curbed his shot making and scored taking minimal risks. With twos and threes the Indian batsmen chipped away at the English bowlers.
In an effort to break the partnership, Cook brought in Kevin Pietersen from the other end to support Swann but that did not help either. And the batsmen extended their unbroken stand to 127 as India went in to lunch at 410 for four with Pujara on 133 and Yuvraj on 72.
Soon after lunch, Yuvraj returned to the dressing room for 74, hitting Samit Patel to Swann at long-on. But, the 24-year-old Pujara continued to graft runs and crossed the 150-run mark for the second time in his career and then surpassed his previous best of 159 with MS Dhoni at the other end. However, the Indian skipper did not keep him company for too long. His bails were knocked over while attempting to sweep Swann, which gave the England bowler his first scalp of the day and the fifth of the innings.
With Pujara on 160, and looking set for a bigger knock, Ashwin joined him in the middle. Ashwin, who has a Test century to his name, provided Pujara with the necessary support. He held up the other end as Pujara inched towards his double-ton. Dropped by the England captain at extra-cover in the over before tea off Patel, Ashwin was on 21 with Pujara on 196 when the second session ended.
Four runs away from the coveted 200-run mark, when the third session commenced Pujara held his nerve and displayed the same poise with which he had reached this far. He took the two and followed by singles to get to his 200. The 24-year old received a standing ovation as he picked the single off Anderson to reach the landmark.
Amongst celebrations, India lost Ashwin in the next over as the batsman edged Pietersen to the wicketkeeper to depart for 32. Zaheer Khan, who replaced him, followed him back couple of overs later giving James Anderson his first wicket. A diving catch by Jonathon Trott at point saw the back of Khan for seven. Two runs later with Ojha still on naught, India declared the first innings for 521.
Facing a daunting task, Cook and debutant Nick Compton came out to the middle to face the Indian bowlers. Ashwin opened the bowling for the home team with Khan bowling from the other end. Although Cook hit a couple of boundaries off Ashwin in the first over, the Indian bowlers kept the English batsmen on a tight leash thereafter. In the 11th over, Dhoni replaced Khan with Ojha and kept the opposition batsmen on their toes with a spin attack from both ends. The move paid off as Ashwin sneaked one through Compton’s bat and pad to hit the batsman’s middle-stump, while Ojha claimed Anderson in the next over. Gautam Gambhir at short-leg took a brilliant diving catch to send the night watchman back in the hut for two. In the following over, Ashwin dismissed the new man, Trott, to leave the visitors reeling on 30 for three.
When play was called off, England were trailing by 480 runs in the first innings with seven wickets in hand.
At the end of Day 2: India 1st innings 521/8 decl. in 160 overs (C Pujara 206*, Yuvraj Singh 74, G Swann 5/144); England 1st innings 41/3 in 18 overs (A Cook 22*, K Pietersen 6*, R Ashwin 2/21, PP Ojha 1/3)
At the end of Day 1: India 1st innings 323/4 in 90 overs (V Sehwag 117, C Pujara 98*, Y Singh 24*, G Swann 4/85)