Furthering his legitimacy as a pedigreed Test batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara composed his maiden double hundred to cornerstone the hosts to a compelling first innings tally of 521 for eight declared, one that seems daunting for England to surpass on an untrustworthy strip and with their response already teetering at 41 for three.
Batting on 98 overnight, Pujara had not any reckless restlessness to accomplish the landmark, which he subsequently reached glancing Stuart Broad to the square leg in the ninth ball he faced in the morning. After the customary bat-wave routine and a shirt swig of water, he resumed in as measured an approach as the talismanic predecessor whose role he had bequeathed.
Apart from craving for the crafted skill and technical compactness of the latter — though both are technically distinct — the mental fabric that fashioned their perspectives on the game seems to be cast even more in the same mould.
His appetite for runs was voracious, and the briskness that accompanied it was only an incentive. While he can look pedantic at times, it’s a pragmatic compromise of artistry for runs.
But for the sharp half-chance to Jonathan Trott at first slip off Graeme Swann, he offered little looseness for bowlers to plot a dismissal. His scoring graph was so even that picking a favoured area of shot was an ungainly exercise. If back-foot punches and drives stood out on Thursday, he demonstrated his likeness to pull the spinners, and they needn’t necessarily be erring on the shorter side.
He employed no half measures, not in the Sehwagesque notion of unrestrained aggression but either his feet strode right to the pitch of the ball or were deep-back into his crease. That accounts for inscrutability against seamers and spinner alike. And playing on his patience was as improbable as break-backer on this track.
He, though, was more demonstrative upon compiling his double hundred, steering Broad to third man, a throwback to the finer virtues of Test batsmanship.
In the glorious afterglow of his batsmanship (206 not out, 389 balls, 21X4), it’s convenient to discount the effort of Yuvraj Singh, who after his initial jitters not only offered stability but also brisked off to his eleventh half-century (74 off 151 balls) that welded India’s dominance.
Together, they combined 130 runs in 285 balls, enhancing the tempo when the lunch neared. After smiting both spinners — Samit Patel and Graeme Swann — for a six each, he pulled Patel’s inviting full-toss to Swann. Dejected, he trudged off for he seemed destined for a hundred in his Test comeback.
Then England needed such fortunate interventions to keep India under a runaway 600. Stuart Broad’s hapless implorations best depicted England’s plight, who toiled wicketless in the first session, before they buckled Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the following passage, though both were wickets the batsmen contrived to gift.
Predictably, the spinners bulked their bowling with even Kevin Pietersen bowling eight overs, though the finest spell of aggression was provided by James Anderson in the first session, wherein he kept the ball on a string and toiled manfully without success, as revealed by his figures (6-3-5-0). Swann duly notched up his five-for, snapping the skipper’s wicket.
England’s reaction with the bat wasn’t any reassuring either, as Ravichandran Ashwin’s sharp off-spinner cut short Nick Compton’s agonizing debut before night watchman James Anderson was snaffled by Gautam Gambhir at silly mid-on off Pragyan Ojha. Ashwin, then, consumed Jonathan Trott to reel the visitors.