India had collapsed to 195-8 in the Southampton Test thanks to off-spinner Moeen Ali, who snared five wickets. But Pujara found able support in No10 batsman Ishant Sharma (14 off 27 balls) and Jasprit Bumrah (6 off 24) to hit a superb century that dug India out of a deep hole.
Pujara’s ton was his 15th in Test cricket and arguably one of his finest as it came with India on the verge of losing the series as they trailed England on Friday with a 1-2 deficit to contend with as well.
Here’s an analysis of Pujara’s superlative century.
RUNS: 132 not out
BALLS FACED: 257
STRIKE RATE: 51.3
Cheteshwar Pujara...— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) August 31, 2018
15th Test 100
5th vs England
1st in England
5th away Test 100
1st in 2018
45th in fc cricket#EngvInd
Batsmen fell around him like nine pins but Pujara batted at his own pace. Even when India collapsed from 142-2 to 195-8, Pujara kept his cool. The moment he received half-decent support from Ishant, Pujara went up a gear. When Rishabh Pant was out for a 29-ball duck with India five down, Pujara was on 70. But the Saurashtra batsman didn’t lose his nerves and cashed in once batsmen at the other end showed some resolve.
Batting with tail-enders while facing a deficit and with the series on the line takes a lot of heart and application. Pujara showed exceptional game sense to farm the strike and hit the boundaries to first take India to England’s total of 246 and then beyond it. Tailenders Ishant and Bumrah did their bit by hanging around but Pujara did the heavy lifting, running as hard between the wickets as he ever has in his career.
Any kid thinking I don’t have enough talent to make it, look at Pujara, that’s your role model right there.#Grit— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) August 31, 2018
He did make a couple of mistakes while rotating the strike. He took two to reach his century off the final ball of the 73rd over, leaving No11 Bumrah to face the next over with India still in the deficit. Bumrah faced the first ball of the over on six occasions, including against the new ball, and that wasn’t the smartest strategy. It got the job done but wasn’t a safe option.
One of the finest Test centuries from Pujara. With the series on the line and India’s batting imploding on the second day, the match could have slipped out of India’s grasp on Friday. But Pujara ensured India are very much in the hunt.
India B have beaten Australia A by nine wickets in the one-day quadrangular series final at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday.
The match winner for India was in-form captain Manish Pandey who blasted 73 not out, following on his unbeaten century against the same opponent just a few days previous.
The Australians lost the toss and were sent in to bat first.
However, after being 4-192, Australia A lost their last six wickets for 33 runs to be dismissed for 225 in the 48th over.
Spinners Shreyas Gopal (3-50) and Deepak Hooda (2-41) claimed multiple wickets, as did fast bowlers Navdeep Saini (2-33) and Siddarth Kaul (2-24).
In reply, Mayank Agarwal (69), Shubman Gill (66 not out) and Pandey all posted fifties as India B reached the target one wicket down in just the 37th over.
Pandey’s effort completed a stunning double as he knocked up 117 not out against Australia A in the preliminary rounds. He fittingly completed the rout with a straight driven six over the sight-screen.
Agar claimed Australia’s only wicket.
Australia A’s first four day match – against India A – will be at the same venue commencing on September 2.
India‘s pace attack will target Jonny Bairstow’s broken finger if he is able to defy injury and take part in the fourth Test.
Mohammed Shami confirmed the tourists’ collective intention to hone in on Bairstow’s potential “weak zone” in Southampton.
Shortly before Bairstow began testing his left middle finger at England practice, with a view to proving he might even yet be able to keep wicket instead of Jos Buttler, Shami left him in no doubt about what to expect if and when he bats.
Asked if he would be tempted to target Bairstow’s injury, the India seamer said: “Obviously. When you see that a batsman has a weakness and he feels uncomfortable in some way, you’d prefer to work on that aspect.
“It’s not just me – any fast bowler will want to target his weak zone – so we will definitely look at that.”
Shami believes India’s pace attack, which outshone England’s at Trent Bridge last week – as the tourists reduced their series arrears to 2-1 with two to play – is currently the envy of world cricket.
“If you compare one on one (with England or any other opponent), we have better bowlers,” he said.
“When we hear this, it feels very good and takes our confidence sky high. India’s best pace attack is in front of you, performing and helping the team win.”
It is a bold statement perhaps, given England house James Anderson – seven wickets away from becoming the most successful pace bowler in global history – with new-ball partner Stuart Broad second in the national all-time list.
Shami added: “We’ve been able to learn a great deal from Anderson. We saw him on the last tour here…so far, what I’ve learnt from Anderson is this: the stricter and the more accurate you are, the better it is.”
Shami is as yet the least effective of the tourists’ pace bowlers this summer, with eight wickets at 41.5 each, after setting aside personal issues surrounding the apparent breakdown of his marriage.
“The last eight months have been tough for me…with the family matter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what happened or didn’t – the period was very stressful for me. I was disturbed about it for some time. (But) at some point, I had to decide that representing the country came first.”
With that in mind, Shami has been a mainstay of an attack still missing the injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar but bolstered by the return to fitness of Jasprit Bumrah.
“The place where I was feeling disturbed…I just got out of there,” he said. Somewhere I felt that if the country needed me, and if I stopped, it would be a loss for my country. Yes, I was struggling with that issue – but being here matters more to me.”