Vishakapatnam, November 20
If India were looking to flex their spinning muscles on a four-day old wicket, the kind of intimidatory tactics that some of the recent visitors to India have succumbed under, they were in for a surprise. The pitch, despite the odd misbehaving ball, was by no means unplayable and England’s openers – Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed, were in no mood to display their adventurism and gift their wickets.
Instead, what followed after India set England a 405-run target were two largely attritional yet absorbing sessions of play, with the two English batsmen batting 302 balls between them for 75 runs before two late wickets ensured India remained favourites despite all the stonewalling.
England now have another 90 overs of the survival battle ahead of them, a not-so-easy proposition, according to Cheteshwar Pujara. “We are happy with the way things went. We got two wickets. We knew that it won’t be easy to get them out but we had our plans and we knew what we wanted to do,” the Saurashtra batsman said after the day’s play on Sunday (November 20).
“Ultimately we achieved what we wanted. We are happy at getting two wickets at the end of the day. Possibly, day five, I don’t think it [the pitch] will be easy to bat on because as we saw, cracks are opening up even on day four, it was difficult. Even on day three – the second and third sessions were difficult to bat on.”
Despite their two late wickets, India’s bowlers, more so the two lead spinners – R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – were left frustrated by the England openers’ dogged defensive approach. Their desperation for a breakthrough came across in two DRS reviews taken in the space of six balls. On both LBW appeals, Cook was reprieved after technology failed to find enough evidence to overturn the on-field umpire’s decision. The two wasted reviews meant India faced the prospect of 34 overs without referrals. The two recent failed calls raised concerns of India’s inexperience with the systems, something Pujara sought to quash. “I think it was the right call [to opt for DRS] because we wanted to get wickets,” Pujara said. “There were a couple of close calls where we felt that if we got some wickets and obviously all of us decided, specially the guys who are close-in to the wicket, they felt that on a couple of occasions, it was a close call and then we opted for DRS. I think it was the right call because if it had been in favour of us, we would have got a couple of more wickets, you never know. “We are clear about that. Before DRS was implemented, we all sat together. We discussed how we want to take calls when we opt for review, especially when on the field, as a fielding unit. When the bowlers will opt for DRS and even when we are batting, we have a clear plan, specially both batsmen will decide whether to take
DRS or not. As a team, we are very clear about it,” Pujara asserted.
While praising teenager Hameed for his defiant 144-ball 25, Pujara also reasoned that adopting a highly defensive approach may not always pay dividends on a deteriorating surface with uneven bounce. “Overall, he [Hameed] is a good player and he is really impressive. The way he has started off is really impressive,” Pujara said.
“But the way he got out, I don’t think it was unfortunate because sometimes in India, you expect balls to keep low and somehow you have to adjust. Specially on day four, obviously spinners will get turn and bounce and sometimes the odd ball will stay low. “Here if you play defensive also, it is not very easy. I believe this wicket is such that if you play defensive, it is slightly difficult to get a batsman out but still as we saw today, there is low bounce. One or two balls from Ashwin bounced, from the rough Jaddu [Jadeja] was able to get a lot of bounce. Even if you play defensive also it is not easy, I don’t think it will be an easy task to bat on this wicket.”
Vishakapatnam, November 20