Playing the first Test match against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the last thing India expected was to find themselves on the backfoot. The weather conditions in Kolkata, accompanied by damp greenish pitch and a crucial toss in Sri Lanka’s favour, made the tide shift in the favour of the away side.
By the time the second day was called off due to bad weather and light, Virat Kohli-led side were five wickets down with just 74 runs on the board. The little time that was offered to Lankan bowlers proved enough to do the damage. While Suranga Lakmal cleared India’s highly regarded top-order in the 11. 5 overs that were bowled on the first day, seamer Dasun Shanaka made the most of the 21 overs that were bowled on Friday and knocked down the middle-order.
The conditions in Kolkata were ideal for seamers. The pitch had everything which the batsmen wouldn’t have asked for. Green cover, tennis ball bounce and then overcast conditions. What the home side needed was a rock-steady figure who could spend some time in the middle and hold one end up. Chetheshwar Pujara dropped anchor and weathered the storm.
With a very patient approach, Pujara’s rock solid defence was on display. Playing close to his body, the right-handed batsman simply ignored all the deliveries close to off-stump and looked for loose balls to hit his strokes. The 29-year old scored five out of nine boundaries from off-drive, which was his most productive shot of the innings. He scored 20 out of 47 runs in the same region. The batsman was praised by fielding coach R Sridhar for narrowing down ‘V’ region to avoid getting caught.
Displaying a control of 85 per cent, Pujara tackled the pace of Lankan bowlers with a rather soft bottom hand. He didn’t go hard at deliveries and operated in a very risk-free manner. The Saurashtra batsman, who has already scored 12 first-class cricket double centuries, is no stranger to playing long innings in tough conditions. His experience in country cricket for Nottinghamshire has definitely come good as he was able to battle out in challenging conditions.
Pujara’s long stay frustrated Lakmal and Shanaka and forced the two try out different lengths, something which Pujara capitalised on. The batsman struck the latter for four boundaries in the day and punished him whenever he got his line and length slightly off. Indian skipper will hope Pujara can stick it out for more time on the crease as his side gets ready for another tough day at the office on Friday.
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