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Rediff.com  » Cricket » How Pujara single-handedly steered India to safety on Day 2

How Pujara single-handedly steered India to safety on Day 2

September 01, 2018 00:27 IST

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara's unbeaten century helped India take a 27-run first innings lead. Photograph: Action Images via Paul Childs/Reuters

Cheteshwar Pujara carved out one of his finest Test hundreds, a knock punctuated by a mix of trademark tenacity and grace, as India eked out a slender 27-run first innings lead against England on Day 2 of the fourth Test, in Southampton, on Friday.


Owing to the 30-year-old's unbeaten 132, his first century outside the sub-continent since 2013, India recovered from a precarious 195 for eight to go past England and finish on 273 in their first innings.

 

Leading the five-match series 2-1, hosts England were bowled out for 246 in their first innings, and finished the second day at six for no loss in their second innings to trail by 21 runs.

Pujara's innings and his last-wicket stand of 46 runs with Jasprit Bumrah (6) have virtually made the encounter at Rose Bowl a game of second innings.

Cheteshwar Pujara

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates after completing his century. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

He got to his 15th Test century, and his second outside Asia. Pujara's footwork against spin, always a feature of his game in home conditions, came to the fore in the first innings of an overseas Test, and it helped India. As he settled down, the No. 3 looked comfortable against the pacers and held forte from end as wickets kept falling from the other end.

In what turned out to be another eventful day of Test cricket, India slumped from 161 for four to 195 for eight in the final session of play, with veteran off-spinner Moeen Ali doing the bulk of damage.

Had it not been for Mooen's impressive return of five for 63, India would have run away with the game as the visitors negated the seam duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the first session, reaching 100 for two at lunch.

England enjoyed upper hand in the post-lunch session despite dogged defiance from Pujara as India went into tea at 181 for five.

Rishabh Pant (0) patiently left the deliveries outside the off-stump before Moeen Ali got one to straighten and trapped him leg-before at stroke of tea.

Pujara, however, batted in his customary style, reaching 70 off 151 balls with nine boundaries to his credit. He initially took time to settle down and waited patiently for the loose deliveries to dispatch them to the boundary.

The in-form Virat Kohli (46) once again looked good for a big score before Sam Curran managed to draw him forward, inducing a thickish outside edge to Alastair Cook at first slip, who held on to a low sharp catch.

Kohli and Pujara added 92 runs for the third wicket after Shikhar Dhawan (23) and Lokesh Rahul (19) were dismissed cheaply by Stuart Broad.

IMAGE: Moeen Ali, left, celebrates with team-mates after taking the wicket of Hardik Pandya. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

However, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (11) fell leg before wicket to a controversial decision. TV replays suggested that Ben Stokes might have overstepped but it was not totally and he received the benefit of doubt.

Earlier, starting on their overnight score of 19 for no loss, Dhawan and Rahul made a brisk start.

But Broad struck in the fourth over of the morning, trapping Rahul lbw in the eighth over of the innings. The batsman opted for DRS, but the decision stayed in England's favour.

The pacer had another appeal against Dhawan turned down, this time for caught behind in the 14th over, and even on DRS, the batsman benefitted as the ball only clipped his thigh pad.

Bowling a lengthy first spell this morning, Broad finally got a second reward for his efforts as he continued to tease Dhawan outside the off-stump. Finally, the edge came in the 18th over, with the batsman caught behind immediately after India crossed 50.

It brought Pujara and Kohli together at the crease, and thanks to the latter, the Indian run-rate picked up once again. Kohli hit four fours during his 40-ball stay thus far, and in doing so crossed 6000 runs in Test cricket, the second-quickest Indian batsman after Sunil Gavaskar to reach the mark.

Pujara and Kohli though settled down for what should be a lengthy Indian innings in helpful batting conditions, as the score crossed 100 at the stroke of lunch.

The Indian pacers rattled England and reduced them to 86 for six, before Sam Curran's second Test half-century helped them post 246 runs in the first innings.

England lead the five-match series 2-1, after winning the first two Tests at Birmingham and Lord's, with India pulling one back with victory in Nottingham.

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