Half Monty, all Pujara

SP

Pujara notched up his second century in the series, as India finished with 266/6; a significant recovery after Panesar had left them reeling. There was also support from skipper Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin, who remained unbeaten on 60, as they too displayed their own unique methods of tackling prodigious spin.

Trouble ahead

There was no dearth of threats to overcome though for Pujara. Brought onto bowl in as early as the seventh over of the innings, Panesar looked to have regained his vintage form, getting drift in the air and turn off the wicket. He also kept altering his line cleverly from middle-and-leg to off-stump, ensuring that he was in the running for all styles of dismissals.

While he did get the better of the big names in the Indian line-up, Pujara proved to be an immovable rock.

Panesar's length balls, he kept out with dead defensive strokes. Pujara in fact employed a forceful shot only when Panesar either pitched it too full or gave him width.

And it wasn't surprising to see that only three of his 39 runs off him on Friday came in the V down the ground. He did hit three boundaries off Panesar, who bowled 22 consecutive overs. The first was a full-pitched delivery driven through the covers, followed by a full-toss being whipped through mid-wicket—that brought up his half-century—and a fearsome cut-shot.

Compared to Panesar, who averaged around 92 kmph with his speed, Graeme Swann was slightly slower in the air, and that meant Pujara could step down the wicket and smother the spin. And he did at least on a dozen occasions. Against Swann, he also refused to play against the spin—another lesson—preferring to pick up singles with tucks and flicks on the on-side.

Over all, Pujara stretched on to his front-foot for close to 75 per cent of the 142 deliveries of spin he faced at Wankhede. On a turning wicket there are no guarantees. Playing with the bat and pad close to each other can be counterproductive on pitches with turn and bounce. And Pujara too had a few anxious moments, especially against Swann. But he never let it bother him.

... contd.

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