The locals called it Diwali bonus as Cheteshwar Pujara joined in the festivities which Virender Sehwag started with his exhilarating hundred at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
The Rajkot-based batsman's unbeaten 98 was in contrast to Sehwag's innings, but equally entertaining. If Sehwag
pummelled the attack with his hitting, Pujara subdued the bowling softly with his silken touch.
When Gautam Gambhir fell for 45, bringing to an end the opening partnership of 134, the only concern was whether Pujara, the youngster who has stepped into the shoes of Rahul Dravid, would be able to maintain the momentum.
Matching the master
Pujara not just matched Sehwag's scoring rate, he was the dominant partner in their 90-run association, in which he contributed 55. The striking feature of the Saurashtra batsman's knock was the time he had to play his shots, whether driving off the front foot or flicking off the backfoot. His elegant, wristy play was pleasing to the eye. He was at his best in the company of Sehwag, reaching his 50 off 67 balls with six fours.
His duel with Graeme Swann was one of the highlights of the action. On a track which offered assistance to the slow men, the two were locked in a fascinating battle as Swann was all guile in his marathon effort of 32 overs. But Pujara mixed dour defence with swift footwork to milk him for runs.
The three fours that Pujara took off the crafty bowler were classy. First, he took advantage of one that was a touch short from Swann to step back and cut. Later on, his innings was studded with two flowing off-drives with the batsman dancing down the track and driving elegantly, the ball racing Teasingly through the off-side cordon.
On his part, Swann was the standout performer for the visitors, bowling his heart out to claim all the wickets to fall on Day One. It took his career tally to four short of 200 wickets, making him the most prolific English off-spinner after overtaking the legendary Jim Laker (193).
What would be most satisfying for Swann is the way he got to the mark, producing excellent drift and scalping some of the finest players of spin in the game. It's truly a performance to savour, and he is unlikely to forget the day although it almost belonged to Sehwag and Pujara.
It was a tough day on the field for England and Jonathan Trott seemed to be feeling the heat the most.
Fielding at slip to Swann, he put down a straightforward chance offered by Virat Kohli, but to add to the embarrassment he claimed the catch. With cameras covering every angle of the field, everyone was left wondering what came upon Trott. It was a shocking appeal as the TV replays soon showed that he had grassed the ball.
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