The first day of a Test match is perhaps the best day to bat unless of course the pitch does something where the ball starts to deviate off the surface in an unexpected manner. The pitch at the Wankhede had already come in for plenty of scrutiny since there was news that the Indian skipper had asked for a pitch that turned from the first day itself. There was plenty of speculation to as to how it would behave.
The Wankhede stadium pitch has always been a good pitch to bat on the first day, but as the days go on it become slower and helps the spinners get more turn. Here on day one itself the ball was turning, though not as prodigiously as the surface promised. The pitch has held firm and the batsman, who has got patience, has survived.
Cheteshwar Pujara played another magnificent Test innings as he built it slowly, never missing a chance to score runs. Once again his use of the feet against the spinners was exemplary and the moment the ball was tossed up in the air he was quickly down to either smother the spin with a defensive soft held bat or get close enough to the ball to hit it for a boundary.
It was just the kind of innings that was the need of the hour, for India were struggling at one stage being 119 for five wickets. It was here that Pujara found in the Indian skipper, a batsman who also mixed aggression with caution and it was their 50 runs partnership that stopped the English spinners and gave India breathing space.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who has a double ton in junior cricket, then played as if the England spinners were a threat to his place in the Indian team and sent them to all corners of the ground with some of the most splendid strokes that one could hope to see especially in the precarious situation the team was in.
The unbeaten partnership with Pujara has given India score that didn’t look possible when they had lost their top order back in the pavilion. Ashwin obviously has seen the Wankhede pitch for it was here against the West Indies that he got his Test century and that too in only his third innings in Test cricket.
He will definitely enjoy bowling in this game and with Harbhajan Singh making a comeback to the team after 14 months it will be an added incentive to Ashwin to show who is the number one spinner in the team.
Monty Panesar’s exclusion in the first Test had been roundly commented on and he justified his inclusion with a four wicket haul. Despite bowling at a quicker pace than what was ideal, he got the odd ball to turn and grip and his dismissals of Sehwag and Tendulkar were terrific deliveries. Graeme Swann was not able to get the purchase that he did in the first Test and that was one of the main reasons that India were able to climb out of the hole created by those early dismissals.
India will be hoping that they will get over 350 runs which should create enough pressure on England and allow the skipper to have more men around the bat, but then in Test cricket intervals can cause unexpected endings and not the ones hoped for.
Professional Management Group