India showed admirable grit and gumption and staged a splendid recovery, after being six wickets down, in the post tea session on the first day of the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium here on Friday.
On its part England would be pleased with the hard work it did on the first day and restricted the home team to 266 for six.
But the looming presence of a supremely confident Cheteshwar Pujara (114 batting) at the crease would have made the visitor extremely disappointed.
After taking the big blows struck by Monty Panesar, India advanced slowly with partnerships revolving around the latest batting sensation Pujara, who faced the third ball of the match and has batted for six hours.
Nothing would have prepared Alastair Cook and Co. for the home team’s peculiar decision to enter the field with three specialist spinners, especially after M.S. Dhoni had categorically announced on Thursday that he would pick a pace and spin attack of equal measure and that Harbhajan Singh would have to wait until the next Test.
Moreover, the England captain wouldn’t have anticipated Pujara to continue from where he had left off at Motera.
As the England team trooped back wearily to the dressing room, it would have mulled Panesar’s delayed arrival, his immediate success and also the potential threat from the three Indian spinners; one of them R. Ashwin has already showed commendable ability with the bat to score a breezy unbeaten half-century.
For a major part of the first six hours, though, it was left-arm spinner Panesar’s guile that held centrestage. It was after much introspection and, perhaps, realising the folly of overlooking him for the Motera Test that England had called him to share responsibilities with Graeme Swann.
In the circumstances he led the England charge in a grand manner within the first hour of coming into the attack. England would still be justified in claiming the day’s honours with Panesar’s remarkable first spell of 23 overs that caused the dismissals of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. It was his remarkable skill, accuracy and temperament that confounded the Indian top and middle order on a wicket that on occasion showed bias for the spinner to extract turn. Another aspect of Panesar’s bowling was his ability to bowl around the wicket to cause the ball to drift into the right-hander and take it away at a high degree of consistency. It was such a delivery, a beauty, that beat Tendulkar before hitting the top of off-stump.
England loses toss
England lost the toss for the second time and this brought into action seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Gautam Gambhir dismissed the first ball off his legs to the mid-wicket boundary and then thrust his front foot forward, played across to be trapped in front. Sehwag showed a lot of restraint, but played all over a yorker-length from Panesar to depart after showing much promise. He struck four boundaries, the pick of them being a cover-drive off Broad.
Tendulkar was cautious. He tried to cover the line and turn, but the ball spun across and hit the off-stump.
Patience has been a virtue Pujara (dropped on 60 by Anderson off Panesar) has meticulously cultivated along with skill and technique right though his career. He exhibited that virtue in ample measure on Friday.