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Cheteshwar Pujara wages lone battle as India wobble vs Sri Lanka in Kolkata Test

Cheteshwar Pujara continued to fight on as India lost their top and upper middle order against Sri Lanka at the opening Test in Kolkata

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 17, 2017 19:16 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
India vs Sri Lanka,Cheteshwar Pujara,Indian cricket team
India's Cheteshwar Pujara plays a shot during the second day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata on Friday.(AFP)

In the age of instant gratification so well provided by the shortest forms of cricket, Cheteshwar Pujara underscored the importance of perseverance on Day 2 of the opening Test against Sri Lanka here today. In conditions difficult for batting, Pujara was the only silver lining in a performance clouded by a lack of conviction. (IND v SL 1st Test, Day 2 HIGHLIGHTS | SCORECARD)

He was the anchor without which India would have disintegrated in a manner that would bode ill ahead of the arduous tour of South Africa. This in a Test with pauses longer than passages of play; only 165 minutes of cricket has been possible in two days at Eden Gardens. India ended on 74/5 on Friday with Pujara was batting on 47 and Wriddhiman Saha on six.

As wickets tumbled, Pujara, 29, ground it out showing the kind of will that has fetched him 12 first-class double-centuries, the maximum by an Indian. It wasn’t pretty but then long ago Pujara had traded that for patience which he has in spades.

“He is a world class player, one who is reaping the benefits of playing county cricket,” said Sri Lanka head coach Nic Pothas, referring to Pujara’s time at Nottinghamshire this year.

In conditions tougher than Headingley in 2002, according to India’s fielding coach R Sridhar who was quoting assistant-coach Sanjay Bangar, Pujara dug in and seemed determined to forget deliveries that got the better off him. Providing the context was Bangar’s 296-ball 68 in Headingley.

Pujara welcomed Dasun Shanaka with boundaries on the off-side to overpitched deliveries. Viewed in conjunction with Ajinkya Rahane’s square-drive off Suranga Lakmal, it seemed that yesterday once more was unlikely to be replayed.

But then Shanaka got Rahane. Where Rahane should have taken a leaf out of the Pujara school of batting, he tried to drive one that nibbled slightly off the wicket and wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella did the rest.

As the soupy light got duller, necessitating floodlights being switched on in the first and only session possible before rain took over, Lakmal was replaced by Lahiru Gamage.

Unlike on Thursday, Gamage put more shoulder into his second spell. The second ball of his eighth over reared sharply off good length and hit Ravichandran Ashwin on the hand. Ashwin went soon after, trying to slash Shanaka.

As he soldiered on, it seemed only Pujara understood that discretion is the better part of valour. He kept leaving deliveries, tucking his bat inside but never missed a scoring opportunity. Tending to bowl full, Shanaka gave him two such deliveries in his innings’ 48th and 50th balls. When Shanaka overpitched again, it was the 63rd delivery Pujara had faced and again it was off-driven for four. When the next boundary came --- similar shot to a similar delivery --- Pujara’s innings was 80 balls old.

Karunaratne sent a loosener and Pujara smacked him again through the off-side. The next over, Karunaratne’s military medium-pace came invitingly in and Pujara pulled for four, the ninth of his innings.

“With so much of lateral movement, the plan was to play as close to your body and play straight. What stood out was that most of his (Pujara) drives were to the right of mid-off. He had a very narrow V (the area between mid-off and mid-on). This was one of the best 47 runs from Pujara in the last two or three years,” said R Sridhar, India’s fielding coach.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 13:11 IST