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Pujara props India with second successive hundred

Last updated on: November 23, 2012 17:37 IST

Cheteshwar Pujara scored his second consecutive Test century as India recovered from a precarious position in the second Test against England in Mumbai on Friday.

The 25-year-old, who scored a double century in the first Test, was unbeaten on 114 on a turning track at the Wankhede stadium as the hosts finished on a healthy 266 for 6 at close on an eventful opening day.

- Scorecard

Pujara, who in the process registered his third Test hundred, found an able ally in Ravichandran Ashwin (batting 60) as the duo put on an unfinished 97-run partnership for the seventh wicket that bailed India out after they were reeling at 119 for 5 at one stage.

- Tendulkar fails again as poor run continues!

Barring Pujara and Ashwin, none of the batsman in the star-studded line-up could make an impression on a track that started turning from the second session and was exploited by left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who claimed four wickets.

Cheteshwar PujaraComing to the crease after the second-ball dismissal of Gautam Gambhir, the 25-year-old Pujara kept one end going by showing superb judgment against the spinning ball to pull India out of a deep hole after the home team opted to bat first on winning the toss.

Pujara was at the wicket for just over six hours during which he faced 279 balls and struck ten fours.

Ashwin faced 84 for his valuable knock.

Pujara came into the game on the back of his unbeaten knocks of 206 and 41 in the two innings of the opening Test at Ahmedabad, which fetched him the Man of the Match award and paved the way for a nine-wicket victory. He played Panesar, who took four for 91, with a lot of assurance.

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It was the Rajkot-born youngster's third 100-plus knock in his last four Test matches, having scored his maiden century (159) against New Zealand in August.

Pujara, who was dismissed only in the warm-up game for Mumbai 'A' after scoring 87, continued to prosper against the visitors, displaying exemplary concentration and shot-selection.

He offered one chance, when on 60, edging Panesar, but James Anderson could not latch on to the ball.

When on 94, England needlessly appealed against him for a catch at midwicket -- which was referred to the third umpire, but replays showed that the ball had bounced in front of the short-leg fielder.

The early part of the day, however, belonged to England, who sent back Gambhir (4), Virender Sehwag (30) -- in his 100th Test -- Sachin Tendulkar (8), Virat Kohli (19) and Yuvraj Singh (0).

Barring Gambhir and Yuvraj, who fell to Anderson and Graeme Swann, the others were dismissed by Panesar.

Pujara and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who mixed caution with aggression before becoming Panesar's fourth victim for 29, put on a partnership of 50 runs off 128 balls.

England's hopes of slicing through the Indian tail, though, came to naught with Ashwin scoring his second fifty.

With some more batting to come in the form of Harbhajan Singh, drafted into the eleven as the third spinner after more than a year, Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha, India will fancy their chances of taking the score past 300.

In the morning, and soon after lunch, England applied the screws on India and made the hosts struggle on a turning track, on which the ball gripped the surface and also bounced.

Panesar, who was left out of the first Test, was the destroyer-in-chief, with a splendid spell of 23 overs on either side of lunch for the wickets of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Kohli before coming on for another spell and the wicket of Dhoni.

Anderson and off-spinner Swann packed off Gambhir (4) and Yuvraj (2) in two balls apiece.

Gambhir, who flicked Anderson to midwicket off the first ball, missed the next and was rapped in front.

After pushing India on the backfoot in the pre-lunch session, England continued the good work with a two-wicket burst in successive overs in the first hour of the post-lunch session.

Panesar, who sent back Sehwag and Tendulkar in successive overs before lunch, got his third victim in the form of Kohli.

After disturbing the stumps of Sehwag and Tendulkar with sharply turning balls, Panesar induced Kohli to drive a ball that drifted in and turned big on pitching. It took the leading edge for Nick Compton to bring off a good, diving catch.

Kohli had cover-driven the left-arm bowler and his spin partner Swann for attractive boundaries in successive overs before he was lured by the crafty Sikh.

The slow bowler made the ball drift in to the right-handers and extracted sharp turn off the track.

He could have had the confident-looking Pujara too when the batsman, batting on 60 in a team score of 135 for five, edged the bowler to the left of Anderson, who could not latch on to the catch at short gully.

Had it been taken, India would have been in deeper trouble.

Prior to this slice of luck, Yuvraj, who scored 74 on his Test comeback in Ahmedabad, departed for a second-ball duck, clean bowled by Swann.

Swann was brought on for a new spell by skipper Alastair Cook soon after the left-hander arrived at the crease, and the move paid off.

The hosts lost these two wickets in successive overs for the addition of just one run and were tottering at 119 for 5 and the loss of Pujara, easily the best Indian batsman against the turning ball in the match, would have been a major blow to their hopes of putting up a fighting total.

Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

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