Cheteshwar Pujara smashed his maiden double century to enable India declare at 521 for eight and by the close of play on the second day of the first Test England lost three wickets for 41 runs at the Sardar Patel Stadium here yesterday.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin quickly removed debutant Nick Compton (9) and Jonathan Trott (0) and became the fastest Indian to pick 50 wickets in Tests and at the other end Pragyan Ojha sent back night-watchman James Anderson. Ashwin reached the 50-wicket mark in only eight Tests.
England captain Alistair Cook managed to survive the tense closing moments of the day’s play. He and his remaining batsmen now face a 480-run deficit, the first priority being to get 281 more runs to avoid follow-on.
The Englishmen have to cope with Ashwin and Ojha who extracted prodigious spin from a track deteriorating with each passing hour. The spotlight was on Pujara before the Indian spinners came on the scene. The Saurashtra batsman became the 17th Indian to hit a double century (206 not out). He was well supported by Yuvraj Singh (74), playing his first Test in a year.
India resumed the day at 323 for four. Pujara and Yuvraj batted solidly to go for lunch at 410 for four, the pair carrying their fifth-wicket stand to 127, as England went wicketless in the first session.
Southpaw Yuvraj, playing his first Test match after battling a rare germ cell cancer, was in great touch and Pujara, too, batted fluently.
Yuvraj had only himself to blame for not reaching the three-figure-mark. He miscued a rank full toss from Samit Patel and holed out at long on. He hit six fours and two sixes in an innings of critical value to his career.
Pujara found Ashwin a willing ally to help him reach his double century in their 66-run seventh-wicket partnership. Pujara carefully got to the important milestone in only his sixth Test, hitting 21 fours.
Pujara revealed the reason behind scoring big runs. “I never like to get out. I always put a price on my wicket. That is the reason I never wanted to give away my wicket. That is the reason for being able to score big runs. Batting at number three is a huge responsibility. You are most of the time facing the new ball,” said the Rajkot lad.
Pujara said missing out on a hundred against the same opposition in the warm-up game against England at the DY Patil Stadium (November 3-5) inspired him to score big. “I got out for 87 in the practice match (for Mumbai ‘A’). That inspired me to score a hundred and then a double hundred.
“I faced all the bowlers except (Graeme) Swann in that game. I was watchful for a few overs against him and then I was comfortable against all the bowlers,” said Pujara.
Pujara felt England look fragile. “We were always targeting the 500-run mark and now have got it. There is a lot of rough and the ball is turning quite big. We can get them out tomorrow and then press for victory. It is going to be difficult for them. They look to be fragile from what we saw today,” Pujara said.
He also informed that he received a congratulatory message from Rahul Dravid hailing his performance. “I got a message from Dravid congratulating me,” he said. Meanwhile, the only positive to come out of the day’s play for the English was Graeme Swann’s five-wicket haul. The off-spinner, who took all the four wickets to fall on the first day, removed Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to record the 13th five-wicket haul of his career.