While Alastair Cook carried on from where he left off in Ahmedabad, Kevin Pietersen joined hands with his new England skipper to torment India on Day Two of the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday.
Cook batted sublimely for his unbeaten 87 while Pietersen, not out on 62, played in an enterprising fashion as he tried to rebuild his England career after the controversial SMS episode during the South Africa series a few months ago. The 110-run unbroken partnership between the duo helped England to reach 178 for two at stumps, 149 runs behind India, who were bowled out for 327 a few minutes before lunch on Saturday. Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar finished with 5-129.
The focus after tea was evidently on Pietersen. A lot was riding on him, especially after his wayward batting in Ahmedabad. Unlike his innings in the first Test where he looked determined to whack every ball into the stands, Pietersen hardly played a false stroke from the moment he drove Harbhajan Singh, playing his 99th Test, through covers on the first ball he faced. His aggression was not misplaced and he judged his attacking shots to perfection. That’s exactly why the England team management rapidly pursued the ‘reintegration’ process.
Cook received solid support from Nick Compton (29) initially, but Pragyan Ojha, once again with his guile, foxed the opener. And, two runs later Jonathan Trott perished for a duck off Ojha. Cook’s sweep shot hit Cheteshwar Pujara on his rib cage, forcing him to leave the field. Substitute Ajinkya Rahane too received a powerful blow on his left elbow by Pietersen.
Though Cook and Pietersen have given England a slight advantage over the hosts, Graeme Swann refused to look at it in a similar way. “We are in a good position, but I wouldn’t say we are in a strong position. We can’t say today that we are going to win this Test. We have got to do a lot of hard work,” said Swann, who picked up three of India’s last four wickets on Saturday. He finished with 4-70, including his 200th Test scalp (Harbhajan Singh) which was erroneously judged lbw by umpire Aleem Dar, said.
“We are in a good position. At the end of Day One, there was a lot of negativity as we hadn’t taken a wicket for a couple of hours. At the end of today, I think a lot of people back in England will be in a very positive mood. “We are still behind and we don’t want to talk about milestones and centuries and things like that. We know we need to get a lead as big as possible, so that we can have a crack at India again,” he added.
Swann said it is important that Cook stays at the wicket. “I said it before the Test series… his batting could blossom with the captaincy responsibility as it did in the ODIs. We will be a very lucky team if this goes on. So far, he’s been magnificent in the three innings that he’s played. At the top of the order, he’s got such a calm head on his shoulders. He’s also the leader. It’s a very reassuring thing to have,” he said.
Both Swann and Pujara do not believe that the wicket has eased out. “Once you get the rhythm of batting on this pitch, it’s a very good one to bat on. Yesterday (Friday), we were lucky that Monty kept picking up wickets every 45 or 50 minutes,” said Swann. Said Pujara: “Initially it was difficult (playing spin), and I think the wicket is slowing down a bit and it’s easy to play shots now. Let’s see, it’s very difficult to predict the wicket at the moment.”