‘We wanted to build a partnership’ – Pujara
Sometimes two wrongs do make things right. At least that was the case for Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli in Visakhapatnam. In the first session, soon after drinks, with India already two down, they gave England the chance to break their partnership not once but twice in a single over.
First, Kohli nudged to the right of Joe Root at midwicket and called for a single that probably wasn’t on. Pujara, who isn’t the quickest across 22 yards, had to put in a big dive despite the throw being a bit wayward. A ball later, Kohli refused a second run after Pujara’s dab to point had been parried by the fielder Stuart Broad towards the man rushing in from sweeper cover. Having come halfway down the pitch, and losing his bat to add to the drama, Pujara was forced into another big dive to keep his wicket safe.
On a first-day pitch that was offering very little help to the bowlers, with the team depending on them to fight back, a run-out might have had the same effect on India as… well, the three catches they dropped in the first session in Rajkot.
“I think we didn’t judge the singles well, especially in the first session,” Pujara said at the end of the day’s play, after he had scored 119 and put on 226 with Kohli, who was not out on 151 at stumps. “But once there was a lunch time, we had a chat of how we want to go in the next session and if you look at the time between the lunch and tea sessions, we didn’t miss many singles and the way we were running between the wickets in the second session was much much better”
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli had a couple of mix-ups in the first session, before having a chat at lunch and improving their understanding between the wickets © Associated Press
Kohli and Pujara collected 118 runs off only 170 balls in the middle session. There were spells of play such as from the 43rd to the 53rd overs when they went at more than six an over. Even this period began with a mistake from an Indian batsman – Ben Stokes could have had Kohli caught at long leg – which was then followed by swift and effective corrective measures.
“There was one error, where he [Kohli] didn’t control the pull shot well,” Pujara said. “But after that, I think the way he was batting and the way I was judging the bounce, we felt that if we continued rotating the strike, continue batting the way we’ve been batting, there wouldn’t be any trouble. It was just one shot where he didn’t control it well.”
Kohli was circumspect against the short ball thereafter, and recorded his third 150-plus score in five months. Pujara made his third century in as many Tests and his 119 was vital in taking India to stumps at 317 for 4. A big first-innings total is likely to have considerable bearing on the outcome of the match with the pitch at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium likely to offer increasing assistance to spinners.
“On day one in India, we mostly see that it’s always good for batting. Even if we see in the last Test match, Rajkot, day one it was really good to bat on, even day two was good to bat on in Rajkot,” Pujara said. “I don’t know how it will shape up starting from tomorrow but we are expecting it to turn a little more than what it did in Rajkot. So if we bat well, looking to put up a good total on the board and let’s see how it turns up on day three.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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