Half Monty, all Pujara

SP

Its arrival had seemed imminent ever since Monty Panesar spun a newish ball past the bats of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag within the first one-and-a-half hours of the day. The signature of a rank turner. A spinner's delivery pitching on a length and exploding off the surface with a puff of dust.

And it reared its ugly head just when Cheteshwar Pujara looked like he had gotten the better of the tricky wicket and the English spinners. The first ball 43rd over of the Indian innings —Panesar's 19th on the trot. Luckily for India's No.3, the ball took the shoulder of his bat but fell harmlessly a few inches away from the point fielder. Pujara smiled wryly. So did Panesar.

After incessant demands for a pitch that would turn from the early going, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had finally gotten his way at the Wankhede Stadium.

It was the hosts, however, who had to contend with the upshot of their skipper's provocation. And with the score reading, 121/5, they weren't really coping too well with it.

Having survived the mini-scare, Pujara, unruffled, defended four of the other five deliveries in Panesar's maiden over resolutely, three while stretching his front-foot right out, and once off the back-foot. The sixth, slower in the air, was driven firmly towards the cover region.

In the space of six balls, Pujara had provided a master-class on how to contend with the challenges of a spinner's track in the subcontinent. A mixture of soft hands, decisive footwork, a straight bat, and delaying the shot till the last moment. And the visitors got a good look of the 24-year-old right-hander's repertoire on the opening day of the second Test as he continued his amazing undefeated run—that has lasted over 15 hours already in this series.

... contd.

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