Cheteshwar Pujara single-handedly kept India in the hunt with a gritty hundred in the fourth Test against England in Southampton. Despite Moeen Ali heroics with the ball, Pujara showed great calmness and composure to hold the one end comfortably. He looked solid right from the word go and once again showed his class on a wearing pitch. In the process, the Test specialist brought up his 15th century in the longer format, it was also his first on the English soil.
After bowling out England for 246 on day 1, India looked well on course to extend their domination with the bat. The crucial 92-run stand for the third wicket between captain Virat Kohli and Pujara kept the Indian team ahead. However, Ali, who was playing his first Test of the five-Test series had other plans as he destroyed the Indian middle-order and completed a magnificent five-wicket haul.
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Pujara also becomes the second Indian batsman after Kohli, to score a century in the ongoing five-Test rubber. Kohli has scored two centuries so far (1st and 3rd Test), however, could not get going on the fourth as he was dismissed for 46.
With Puajara’s century, India have managed to take the lead against the hosts.
The 30-year old notched up his 15th Test ton in 210 balls and kept the visitors in control despite losing the top and middle order in quick succession.
‘God of Cricket’ – Sachin Tendulkar heaped praised Pujara on scoring a brilliant hundred in tricky conditions. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh also congratulated Pujara on his century.
Earlier, England enjoyed upper hand in the post-lunch session despite dogged defiance from Cheteshwar Pujara as India reached 181 for 5 at tea on the second day of the fourth Test. Rishabh Pant (0) patiently left the deliveries outside the off-stump before Moeen Ali got one to straighten after pitching trapping him leg-before at stroke of tea.
Pujara, however, batted in his customary style reaching 70 off 151 balls with nine boundaries to his credit. He took time to settle down and waited patiently for the loose deliveries to dispatch it to boundary.
Skipper Virat Kohli (46), once again looked good for a big score before Sam Curran managed to draw him forward inducing a thickish outside edge to Alastair Cook in the slip cordon.
Kohli-Pujara added 92 runs for the third wicket after Shikhar Dhawan (23) and Lokesh Rahul (19) were dismissed cheaply by Stuart Broad (2/50).
Kohli’s 71-ball knock had six boundaries. However vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (11) would consider himself unlucky as he was trapped leg before off a no-ball from Ben Stokes. The TV replays clearly showed that Stokes had overstepped but a howler from third umpire Joel Wilson became Rahane’s undoing.
Despite calling for a review, Wilson after repeated replays ruled it as a legal delivery.
Starting from overnight 19 for no loss, Dhawan and Rahul made a sedate start. The duo were watchful for any hint of lateral movement, similar to what the Indian pacers generated on the first morning of the match.