England in a spin after Pujara masterclass
England faced an uphill battle to avoid defeat in the first Test at Ahmedabad after India’s spinners built on Cheteshwar Pujara’s wonderful double-hundred with three late wickets on day two.
Pujara exhibited a cool temperament, fantastic hunger and no little skill in compiling a tremendous unbeaten 206 that helped his side to 521 for eight declared.
His superb innings ensured England were made to toil in the field for 160 overs as India batted into the second evening.
Sadly for the tourists, further trouble was ahead as they slipped to 41 for three in reply, with Ravichandran Ashwin claiming two wickets either side of Pragyan Ojha snaring nightwatchman James Anderson.
England captain Alastair Cook reached stumps with 22 to his name, but he could only watch on in horror as Ashwin and Ojha, gaining assistance from a seemingly benign pitch, wreaked havoc in the final half-hour of play.
With several fielders surrounding the bat, debutant Nick Compton was bowled through the gate for nine, before Anderson and Jonathan Trott popped up catches to short-leg in quick succession.
Cook had Kevin Pietersen for company at the close and a significant partnership will be needed on the third morning if England are to turn the tide.
Yuvraj Singh had earlier offered able support to Pujara during another wicket-free morning. The left-hander largely reined in his attacking instincts, only to hole out off a Samit Patel full-toss on 74.
There were eventual wickets too for Pietersen and Anderson, yet it was Graeme Swann, the only successful bowler yesterday, who again represented England’s chief threat.
Swann, the one bowler to offer consistent control during India's innings, finished with figures of 5-144 from 51 overs, having added the scalp of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to his four breakthroughs on day one.
While the off-spinner deserves credit, his efforts were ultimately overshadowed by Pujara’s epic 389-ball innings, which spanned more than eight and a half hours, and the flurry of late Indian strikes.
Defensively solid throughout, Pujara demonstrated an eagerness to work the ball to leg, but was able to collect runs all around the wicket.
His method against spin was particularly effective. After surviving a strong lbw appeal when padding up to Swann on 113, the 24-year-old was hardly troubled and rocked back to pull for four on numerous occasions, with Patel taking the bulk of the punishment.
Live Text Commentary
11am - STUMPS - England 41/3; Cook 22, Pietersen 6 - Cook and Pietersen survive the final over from Ashwin, but the last 25 minutes have left England with much work to do if they are to avoid defeat. Join me tomorrow to see if the tourists can battle back.
10:56am - Pietersen’s arrival at the crease prompts the introduction of his old foe Yuvraj Singh, who starts with one of the worst deliveries I’ve ever seen, a dreadful long-hop that is pulled for four. England wouldn’t mind a few more of those.
10:51am - WICKET! Trott c Pujara b Ashwin 0; Eng 30/3 - Gah! Trott pops up a catch to short-leg off Ashwin and England are in all kinds of trouble now.
10:46am - WICKET! Anderson c Gambhir b Ojha 2; Eng 29/2 - The decision to send out a nightwatchman has backfired. Anderson gets a thick inside-edge onto pad off Ojha and Gambhir pulls off a superb reaction catch at short-leg, bringing Jonathan Trott to the crease.
10:43am - James Anderson comes out as nightwatchman and survives a strong appeal for leg-before. England will be desperate not to lose a second wicket, with just four overs remaining in the day.
10:40am - WICKET! Compton b Ashwin 9; Eng 26/1 - Now we have slow bowling from both ends, with Ashwin replacing Zaheer. In the second over of his spell, the off-spinner strikes with a wonderful flighted delivery that bowls Compton through the gate.
10:30am - There are a few oohs and aahs out in the middle as Compton leaves a Zaheer delivery that shaped in from around the wicket. Looked like good judgement to me. The right-hander is then beaten by a beauty from Ojha, and has to cope with four men around the bat on the off side.
10:23am - Ojha comes on in place of Ashwin. Surrey fans will be particularly aware of how effective the left-arm spinner can be after he enjoyed a successful stint at the Kia Oval last year. Nothing to worry Cook and Compton just yet, though.
10:15am - In testing circumstances, this has been a very confident start from Compton, whose success has been built on a rock-solid defensive technique. The Somerset batsman is looking to get forward to Ashwin and has yet to be troubled.
10:07am - Ashwin spins one past Cook’s defensive push to end the third set of six. A maiden from Zaheer follows, but I think we may have spin from both ends soon enough.
9:57am - Zaheer shares the new ball and Compton meets his first delivery with a solid defensive stroke. A confident pull is then cut off by Virender Sehwag before England’s newest Test cap gets off the mark with a single. Cook whips the final ball of the over off his hip to collect a third four.
9:51am - An immediate trial by spin for England as Ashwin opens the bowling. He starts with a wide delivery that Cook confidently cuts for four. As you might expect, the skipper is not short of company around the bat, and there is turn for Ashwin already. A bottom edge brings Cook a second boundary.
9:48am - England’s new-look opening pair, Alastair Cook and debutant Nick Compton, have quite a task on their hands this evening. There are 18 overs left in the day and it is imperative the tourists start well as they respond to such a formidable total. If they can match India by batting for a mere 160 overs, all will be well!
9:39am - END OF INNINGS - Ind 521/8 declared; Pujara 206 not out - England will not need a ninth wicket. India have declared!
9:38am - Graeme Swann is back, with Pragyan Ojha having joined Pujara in the middle, but a ninth wicket is eluding England for the time being.
9:24am - WICKET! Zaheer c Trott b Anderson 7; Ind 519/8 - It has taken 157.1 overs, but a wicket has finally fallen to seam! Zaheer slashes at a wide delivery from Anderson and is well caught by a diving Jonathan Trott at point.
9:22am - Zaheer Khan is the new batsman and will be keen to prolong England’s time in the field. A sloppy delivery from Pietersen allows the tailender to collect four through point.
9:12am - WICKET! Ashwin c Prior b Pietersen 23; Ind 510/7 - Pietersen picks up a handy wicket for the tourists. Ashwin could have left this wide delivery alone, but got a thin edge through to wicketkeeper Matt Prior as he sought to get bat on ball.
9:07am - DOUBLE-CENTURY! Pujara (374b 21x4 0x6) - Cheteshwar Pujara wastes little time in bringing up a notable landmark after tea. He takes three from Kevin Pietersen before guiding one down to third man off James Anderson to reach 200 for the first time in Tests. What a wonderful innings this has been, and it’s not over yet...
8:41am - TEA - Ind 502/6; Pujara 196, Ashwin 21 - Broad opts to bowl a few cutters, prompting an inevitable mention of Paul Collingwood from the Sky Sports commentators. I’m sure it won’t be long before Basil Barwick’s name comes up. Ashwin receives a life in the final over of the afternoon session as Cook fails to take a chance at short cover off Patel. It’s been another hard day in the field for England thus far.
8:29am - Swann completes his 50th over. In truth, he has been the only bowler to offer consistent control to Alastair Cook in this innings, but even he cannot prevent Pujara from picking up another pulled four. I’m getting flashbacks to Hashim Amla at the Kia Oval...
8:23am - Broad is left exasperated after Patel’s misfield allows Ashwin to claim two. The same fielder does well to prevent a Pujara cover-drive from reaching the rope, before Ashwin cuts a loose delivery for four.
8:10am - Now it is Pujara’s turn to show some aggression. For at least the third time today, he rocks back and pulls Patel to the fence. You have to admire the 24-year-old’s hunger and level of application. We’re going to have some more pace as Stuart Broad replaces Patel.
8:03am - Ashwin breaks the shackles by sweeping Swann for four. That’s the first boundary in some time and England will be pleased with their work since lunch.
7:55am - Progress is slow for the hosts as Ashwin plays himself in alongside his established partner. The wickets of Yuvraj and Dhoni have prevented India from really putting their foot down at this stage.
7:40am - England would dearly love to make short work of India’s tail here, but it won’t be easy; the new batsman, Ravichandran Ashwin, has a Test hundred to his name. Drinks are taken with India 447 for six.
7:31am - WICKET! Dhoni b Swann 5; Ind 444/6 - Pujara nudges Swann to midwicket to overhaul the aforementioned 159 against New Zealand. But there’s a breakthrough for England later in the over when Dhoni mis-judges a sweep and drags on. A deserved five-wicket haul for Swann!
7:23am - A slice of luck for Dhoni, who only just clears mid-off when taking the attack to Patel. Pujara is seeing it like a football and drives Bresnan down the ground to register his 19th four. He really has shown his class in this innings.
7:11am - 150! Pujara (299b 18x4 0x6) - A glanced single off Tim Bresnan takes Pujara to 150. He is closing in on his Test-best of 159, made against New Zealand in August.
7:08am - Another poor ball from Patel, and this time it gets the treatment it deserves as Pujara pulls for four. The relentless number three pulls a fuller delivery to the fence soon after and has now reached 149.
6:59am - In all honesty, that has to be one of the worst deliveries to ever yield a wicket in Test cricket! It was almost a no-ball for height, but England will not mind one bit. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the new batsman.
6:52am - WICKET! Yuvraj c Swann b Patel 74; Ind 413/5 - Matt Prior appeals for a stumping off Samit Patel’s first ball of the session. Replays show that Yuvraj did not lift his boot after being beaten on the cut. The left-hander falls in Patel’s next over, however, as he slaps a waist-high full-toss to Swann at long-on.
6:43am - Back under way in Ahmedabad. Kevin Pietersen continues and concedes a solitary single to Yuvraj Singh, who must surely be eyeing up a century on his return to the Test arena.
6:01am - LUNCH - Ind 410/4; Pujara 133, Yuvraj 72 - Off-spin from both ends for the remainder of the session, with Swann back on alongside Pietersen. The former is pulled for four by Yuvraj and I’m afraid to say England have failed to take a wicket for the second successive morning.
5:50am - Kevin Pietersen comes on for a bowl at Yuvraj. This could be interesting. The part-time off-spinner starts well, forcing more than one false shot from his rival in a maiden.
5:41am - They could yet be bowled out, but I wonder if India have a figure in mind regarding a potential declaration? With Yuvraj currently at the crease and Mahendra Singh Dhoni still to come, we may see an acceleration in the scoring rate this afternoon. Back to the present and Ian Bell takes a blow to the leg at silly point. Nothing serious, thankfully.
5:33am - Time for Tim Bresnan’s first burst of the day. He starts with a steady over, before Yuvraj dances down the track to strike a straight six off Patel.
5:24am - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - Patel drops short and is pulled for four by Pujara. In the left-arm spinner’s next over, the 100 stand arrives courtesy of a hurried single.
5:15am - FIFTY! Yuvraj (98b 5x4 1x6) - Samit Patel is introduced and Yuvraj moves past 50 by swiping a full-toss through midwicket. England need a wicket here, and fast. The latest plan sees Anderson maintaining a line outside off stump to Pujara, who plays out a maiden.
5:02am - Pujara is beaten by a well disguised leg-cutter from Anderson, who has conceded one run from three overs. England’s bowling has been disciplined on the whole today, but India remain in control on 367 for four as drinks are taken.
4:51am - He may not have added to his wicket tally this morning, but Swann has been impressive once again. The Nottinghamshire man keeps Pujara quiet in another maiden, his eighth, and then induces a top-edge from Yuvraj that lands safely. Beautiful bowling.
4:42am - Swann finds some bounce outside off, but a thick edge from Pujara flies wide of Jonathan Trott at slip. There is a huge lbw appeal two deliveries later when the batsman pads up. That must have been close, but England cannot call for a review, with the Decision Review System not in use for this series. James Anderson replaces Broad and maintains a good line to Yuvraj.
4:33am - Just the one slip now for Broad. This is not the sort of pitch where you can expect to see edges flying through the cordon on a regular basis. Pujara has been much more positive since reaching 100, while Yuvraj also looks well-set and now has 42. The left-hander is struck on the pad by Broad, who appeals enthusiastically, but the impact was just outside the line of off.
4:20am - CENTURY! Pujara (190b 13x4 0x6) - Yuvraj gets Pujara back on strike and the number three duly brings up his second Test century by tucking Broad down to fine-leg for a single. Pujara celebrates the landmark by thumping Swann down the ground for four. More punishment follows for England's senior spinner when Yuvraj follows a straight six with a slog-sweep that almost clears the rope at midwicket.
4:13am - A single off Stuart Broad, who is operating with a split field, takes Cheteshwar Pujara to 99. He is made to wait for his hundred, however, as Swann delivers a second successive maiden.
4:02am - England may have a new ball, but it is Graeme Swann who gets us started following his superb opening-day performance. The off-spinner sees an optimistic lbw appeal against Yuvraj Singh rejected in a probing first over.
3:57am - The fresh cherry certainly seemed to do a bit more than the first new ball yesterday. We’re about to find out if it can bring early wickets on day two.
3:50am - Pujara, who batted with great composure on the opening day, will have Yuvraj Singh for company this morning. The all-rounder has 24 to his name and possesses the ability to take the game away from England, providing he can see off the second new ball, which is just four overs old.
3:40am - England certainly were not at their best yesterday, with the exception of one man. Graeme Swann was responsible for all four wickets to fall, but will surely need more support this morning if India are to be kept in check. An improvement in the tourists’ fielding would also be welcomed, with a number of chances having gone begging thus far.
3:30am - Good morning and welcome to ecb.co.uk’s live coverage of the first Test between India and England in Ahmedabad. It was the hosts who enjoyed the better of day one, reaching 323 for four thanks largely to fine innings from Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara. The former was typically bold in striking 117 at a run a ball, while Pujara will resume needing two more to complete a second five-day century.