VISAKHAPATNAM: It’s not often that the Indian batsmen are upstaged by spinners at home, but having come close to doing it, England had to brace for the backlash. The stunning riposte was not long in coming as India flexed their batting muscle with Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli dominating the England attack for most part on the first day of the second Test.
The ACA-VCA YSR Stadium had much to celebrate apart from becoming the 24th Test venue in the country and so did Pujara, who in notching up his third successive century, his 10th overall, made sure he has one in all three latest Test centres on the BCCI list – Indore, Rajkot and Vizag – as India finished at 317 for four. That’s a clear indication of the rich vein of form the Indian No.3 batsman is in after the 373 runs he totalled in the three-match series against New Zealand recently, and he followed up his 124 in Rajkot with 119 (204b, 12×4, 6×2) here. Where he had Murali Vijay to tango in his home state, Pujara had Kohli, unbeaten on 151 (352min, 241b, 15×4), for company after the openers succumbed early.
Stuart Broad quickly ended KL Rahul’s comeback stint with Ben Stokes taking a smart catch at third slip and Vijay, who hit four delectable boundaries in his 20, could do very little but fend a James Anderson – who came in for Chris Woakes in the only change to the England squad -delivery that got big on him after Kohli decided to bat on a wicket where the odd delivery has shown signs of misbehaving.
The nature of the surface was probably what made the Indians give Jayant Yadav a Test cap at the same venue where he made his One-day International debut against New Zealand recently, and the Haryana lad, who replaced leggie Amit Mishra, would have noticed how the England spin trio was shown its place by Pujara and Kohli.
In batting together for 61.4 overs after the openers fell, they realised 226 runs for the third wicket and but for Pujara’s suicidal tendencies that surfaced in 20s – he survived two run out chances just as England switched to double spin attack in the 16th over – and Adil Rashid’s reprieve of Kohli when on 56, it was smooth sailing for the hosts.
Kohli’s 14th Test century was a given and the felicity of his shots was breathtaking as it was clinical. The Indian skipper had waxed eloquent about the takeaways from his matchsaving, unbeaten 49 in the second innings of the Rajkot Test and the manner in which he paced his innings exemplified control over his craft.
Two early wickets and run-out chances may have resulted in a lunchtime score of 92 for two, but runs came in a torrent on a sunny afternoon with picturesque hillocks forming a nice backdrop as the PujaraKohli duo consolidated.
It also helped the Indians that the England attack was inconsistent, but they revelled in each other’s company and the race to their respective century when they matched each other shot for shot. A canine intervention forced early tea at 210 for two and Pujara fell on resumption, trying to cut Anderson, but with Ajinkya Rahane adding 68 runs in quick time with Kohli, skipper Alastair Cook’s worries weren’t over. But his ploy to take the second new ball after 88 overs met with immediate success.
Anderson induced an edge off Rahane at the fag end of the day, but that they used their reviews unsuccessfully – against Pujara and Kohli, both off Moeen Ali – in their eagerness to see the back of the punishing duo quite sums up India’s day out.