“All good things come to those who wait,” is a wonderful line mouthed by Robert de Niro in blockbuster movie Ronin.
Cheteshwar Pujara and M. Vijay could well have listened to those words. The two blocked and bided their time in the first session — they added only 37 runs in 22 overs before lunch — and then gradually opened out.
By the end of day two of the second Airtel Test, Pujara (162 batting) and Vijay (129 batting) were in complete control. So much so, that the two ruthlessly dismissed the Aussie attack in the post-tea session to gather a hectic 151 runs in 30 overs.
With Pujara and Vijay joining forces for an unbeaten 294-run association in 510 deliveries — India’s highest second-wicket partnership against Australia in Tests — before a 30,000-strong Sunday crowd, the host ended the day on a dominant 311 for one.
India lost just one wicket in the day — Virender Sehwag’s in the fifth over.
The home side already leads Australia by 74 runs on a surface that could increasingly assist the spinners from day three.
Pujara and Vijay handled the uneven bounce of the track with strong front-foot play before the Aussie bowlers lost their length.
Its pacemen lacking penetration and spinners quality, the Australian attack stood exposed. As the day neared conclusion, the Aussie bowling, bereft of ideas, appeared helpless.
Pujara continues to grow in stature. He is slightly crouched in his stance but gets into a wonderful side-on position before the ball is delivered.
The 25-year-old Saurashtra right-hander’s purity of technique lends his batting the kind of solidity not often seen in the present generation of batsmen. He sees off overs, spells and sessions as he constructs his innings in a manner that is old fashioned.
Pujara’s fourth three-figure knock in Tests — second at this venue — was an also an innings of enterprise. While plenty has been said about his defence, Pujara has the strokes to create opportunities and to punish loose deliveries.
He sashayed down against the spinners, cover-driving and flicking both left-armer Xavier Doherty and off-spinner Glenn Maxwell to the ropes.
Unlike several young sub-continental batsman, Pujara is strong off his back foot. Given the slightest of width or length, he cut and pulled the pacemen. When Peter Siddle bounced at him with the second new ball, he was hooked by Pujara for a rousing six.
In the context of India finding an in-form Test opener — a huge area of concern for the side — Vijay’s runs at the top of the order were significant. Sehwag, tentative and feeling for the ball, failed again when he nicked a delivery that straightened from Siddle in the morning.
Tight in offence and defence, Vijay made pleasant viewing technically.
In an engaging morning session, Vijay ‘played’ and ‘left.’ Picking swing quickly after release and moving forward to cover his off-stump, Vijay offered no shot to several deliveries outside off.
The 28-year-old right-hander has worked on his stance. In the period he struggled, Vijay was falling over because he tended to put too much weight on his left leg.
Now, Vijay was relaxed in his stance and the back-swing was straight. His batting had an essential ingredient: balance.
Vijay batted with composure and poise once he survived the demanding initial phase when the disciplined Australian bowling gave little away.
Vijay’s rapier-like front-footed cover-drives off James Pattinson and Siddle saw his willow and feet moving in unison. This was an innings dotted with scorching drives between cover and point.
And Vijay danced down to spinners, timing Doherty over long-off, whipping Maxwell to the ropes and easing the bowler over covers.
Vijay, when in form, has the flow and grace of a batsman riding on his skill. Importantly, his trigger movement was in sync with his intent. Vijay was decisive.
Pattinson and Siddle lacked incision — they also over-pitched later in the day seeking reverse swing — and Doherty was at best steady. Maxwell has an easy action but does not seem to impart enough revolutions on the ball.
Skipper Michael Clarke had a short cover and a short mid-wicket in place in the morning; to lure the batsmen there was no one deep behind these areas. On a two-paced wicket such as the one here, they became catching positions with the possibility of a batsman miscuing an attempted drive looming.
Clarke comprehends the value of aggressive field placements, but Vijay and Pujara batted with a plan.