Mumbai, Nov 23 (IANS) A sublime hundred by Cheteshwar Pujara and his unfinished 97−run stand with Ravichandran Ashwin got India out of trouble on the opening day of the second cricket Test against England here Friday. At the close, India were 266/6.
Pujara (114 not out) and Ashwin (60 not out) took India to a respectable 266 in 90 overs from a precarious 169 for six on a Wankhede pitch that responded to spin on the opening day itself. Left−arm spinner Monty Panesar made his first opportunity of the series count by picking four crucial wickets.
England were on top in the first session with India making a small recovery in the afternoon to be 167 for five at tea. India seized the initiative in the final session though they lost their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (29) soon after resumption. If India notch up any score upwards of 300, England could be put under pressure as they have to bat last on a crumbling pitch with India playing with three spinners, including Harbhajan Singh.
While Virender Sehwag (30), playing his 100th Test, and local hero Sachin Tendulkar (8) disappointed, Pujara seemed to have resumed from where he left off in the first Test at Motera where he was not dismissed scoring 206 in the first innings and 41 in the second.
Coming to face the third ball of the match, his third Test hundred came in much tougher conditions than the one in the first. The 24−year−old endured a testing spell of fast bowling in the morning after India opted to bat. Pujara also showed great skill in tackling the sharp turners of Graeme Swann (1/59) and Panesar (4/91).
The Saurashtra youngster struck ten fours in his 279−ball effort and the rub of the green too went his way. The Rajkot−born cricketer was dropped at second slip while batting on 62 and was close to getting out on 94 when he went for a pull off Swann. The ball appeared to rebound off the short−leg fielder Alastair Cook's foot to mid−wicket. The Englishmen claimed a catch, but the replays showed the ball hit the ground before kissing the toe of the close−in fielder.
Soon after, Pujara got to three figures with a pulled four off Anderson.
Ashwin, on the other hand, played his part brilliantly and came up with strokes expected from a top−order batsman. The off−spinner struck boundaries on either side to get to his second Test fifty.
England dominated the morning session with Panesar and pacers bowling a disciplined line and length on a track that gave them hope.
Anderson got the breakthrough off the second ball of the match when Gautam Gambhir (4) was adjudged leg−before, trying to flick the ball off his toes. A close decision went in the bowler's favour.
A double strike by Panesar ensured that the first session belonged to England as India went in for lunch at 87 for three from 28 overs.
Sehwag missed a straight one to find his stumps disturbed while Tendulkar was bowled off a ball that turned sharply.
Shortly after the lunch break, Kohli became Panesar's third victim, the left−arm spinner flighting the ball to induce the batsman into an expansive drive, resulting in a simple catch at cover.
Yuvraj perished in the next over, playing Swann inside the line to be bowled for a nought.