Pujara, Ashwin bail out India
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was categorical in his demand for a spinning wicket ahead of the second Test in Mumbai, so much so that he wanted it turn from ball one.
The curator granted his wish, and he also got lucky with the toss to further consolidate his position of strength.
But even he must have been stunned by what transpired in the first session-and-a-half as England's left-arm spinner Monty Panesar threatened to run through the Indian batting line-up.
India were bailed out literally by Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin, who helped the team finish with a slight edge on Day 1 of the second Test against England, at the Wankhede stadium, in Mumbai, on Friday.
India were struggling at 119 for five at one stage before Pujara led the fightback with a gritty century. In the company of the lanky Ashwin, who stroked a fluent half-century (60 from 84 balls), he put on an unbroken stand of 97 runs for the seventh wicket to help India close the day on 266 for 6 in 90 overs.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Vivek Prakash/Reuters
'If we get past 350-375, it could be game on'
Pujara finished unbeaten on 114 at stumps, having batted for six hours after Gautam Gambhir's dismissal in the first over of the day. He is yet to be dismissed in three innings, having hit a match-winning double century in the first Test at Ahmedabad.
Ashwin believes a first innings score of 350 will be a good total on this track, which offered a lot of assistance to the England spinners on Day 1
"At this point of time, we have actually got to a phase where we have steadied it and got to a situation where we could be a little comfortab#8804 I wouldn't say we are totally out of the woods. The morning session could be very crucial; if we could get a few more runs and get past 350-375 then I think it could be game on," Ashwin said, after the day's play.
"We batted pretty well to get to where we have. There is a lot of work to be done. If we can get more runs, I think we can put a lot of pressure on them," the all-rounder added.He also sounded a warning for the English batsmen, saying it will not be as easy to bat, as was the case on the slow, low wicket in Ahmedabad.
Image: R Ashwin
Photographs: Tim Wimborne / Reuters
'Monty and Swann bowled really good spells when I went in to bat'
"It has got more bounce. I don't think you can really plant your foot forward and keep defending; that's not going to be the case. Definitely, there is more aid more for the spinners and there is more bounce in the wicket," the offie opined.
Ashwin has a special liking for the Wankhede stadium, having scored a century in his previous match at the venue -- 103 against the West Indies last November.
The 26-year-old was instrumental in India's counter-attack. He adopted a positive approach on arrival at the crease and put the pressure back on the English bowlers.
"I just batted the way I know. I have always batted like this. I used my feet up and down and tried to vary the lengths that the bowlers were bowling. I thought Monty and Swann bowled really good spells when I went in to bat. So, that was the basic plan that I had in mind. I had prepared quite well as to what I was going to do... come what may and it was not about the balance of anything," he said.
Image: Monty Panesar of England celebrates with Alastair Cook
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
'It is quite a tough wicket to bat on'
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had said on the eve of the Test that he would be critical of the wicket if it did not help the spinners. The pitch certainly started turning right from the word go as Monty Panesar rocked the Indians early to register good figures of four for 91 in 34 overs by stumps on Day 1.
Ashwin also praised the sporting Wankhede track, which has been prepared by former India batsman Sudhir Naik."The Mumbai wicket has always a great bounce. It is one of the best wickets in the country, and when it starts spinning, it does go. Everybody knows it is quite a tough wicket to bat on unless you get in for the first 15-20 minutes. So, in that regard, the wicket has got a lot of help in it for the spinners. In fact, the fast bowlers, if they bent their back even in the last session ... a few balls were going through. So it is a pretty good wicket," he said.
Image: Policemen stand guard next to the pitch at the Wankhede stadium
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui / Reuters