MUMBAI, Nov 23: Cheteshwar Pujara cracked his second consecutive Test century as India recovered from a precarious situation to restore the balance on opening day of the second cricket Test against England here on Friday.
Pujara, who had scored a double century in the first match in Ahmedabad, notched up his third Test century to remain unbeaten on 114 on a turning track at the Wankhede Stadium and steered the hosts to a far more comfortable 266 for six at close on an eventful day.
Pujara found an able ally in Ravichandran Ashwin (60) as the duo put on unfinished 97-run partnership for the seventh wicket to bail them out after the hosts were reeling at 119 for five at one stage.
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 onwards and which was exploited by left-arm spinner Monty Panesar who claimed four wickets.
Coming to the crease after the second ball dismissal of Gautam Gambhir, the 25-year-old Pujara kept one end going by showing superb judgement 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 stayed for just over six hours in which he had 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 his team’s comprehensive nine-wicket victory.
Panesar, who took four for 91 by the end of the day’s day, was played with a lot of assurance by Pujara.
It was the Rajkot-born right-hander’s third 100-plus knock in his last four Tests, having scored a maiden century (159) against New Zealand in August.
Pujara continued to prosper against the visitors with his exemplary concentration and shot selection. He gave one chance, when on 60, when he edged Panesar but James Anderson could not latch on to it.
When on 94, England needlessly appealed against him for a catch at midwicket, which was referred to the third umpire and the replays showed the ball had bounced in front of the short leg fielder.
The early part of the day 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.
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’s gap — Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha, India would fancy their chances of taking the score past 300.—Agencies
Scoreboard INDIA (1st Innings): G. Gambhir lbw b Anderson 4 V. Sehwag b Panesar 30 C.A. Pujara not out 114 S.R. Tendulkar b Panesar 8 V. Kohli c Compton b Panesar 19 Yuvraj Singh b Swann 0 M.S. Dhoni c Swann b Panesar 29 R. Ashwin not out 60 EXTRAS (LB-1, NB-1) 2 TOTAL (for six wkts, 90 overs) 266 FALL OF WKTS: 1-4, 2-52, 3-60, 4-118, 5-119, 6-169. TO BAT: Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, P.P. Ojha. BOWLING (to-date): Anderson 14-3-49-1; Broad 12-1-60-0 (1nb); Panesar 34-7-91-4; Swann 26-5-59-1; Patel 4-1-6-0. ENGLAND: A.N. Cook, N.R.D. Compton, I.J.L. Trott, K.P. Pietersen, J.M. Bairstow, S.R. Patel, M.J. Prior, S.C.J. Broad, G.P. Swann, J.M. Anderson, M.S. Panesar. UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and A.L. Hill (New Zealand). TV UMPIRE: S. Ravi (India). MATCH REFEREE: R.S. Mahanama (Sri Lanka).