Hamilton: The first day of India’s practice match against New Zealand XI turned out to be just another day in the office for Cheteshwar Pujara.
The pitch had a tinge of green, the bounce was spongy and the NZ XI pace battery had plenty of zip. India slumped to 5-3 before crashing to 38-4 inside 90 minutes. The situation demanded extreme caution. Enter, Pujara, who thrives on the cautious approach given his brilliant temperament. Pujara’s mind is trained for exactly such passages of play.
Every single run, whether it was an inside edge that cannoned into his thigh guard or a punch wide of long-on, pushed India’s total closer to the three-fugure mark. Then, as has been the case in the last 18 months, Pujara started to find ways to accelerate the scoring.
After lunch, his drives began to pierce the gaps and the flicks raced to the fence. The short ball theory was negotiated with ducking and weaving. However, the introduction of spin thereafter, saw Pujara stamping his authority on the proceedings.
Once Pujara crossed 50, he started to drive through the covers and even took on the short ball. He got a reprieve on 82 while attempting an upper cut but by then he had realised that he’d had enough practice. After close to five hours at the crease and a partnership of 195 with Hanuma Vihari, Pujara had once again rescued India.
On 93, he miscued a pull and was caught at first slip. By the time he walked back to the pavilion, the clock had ticked past 5pm and Pujara’s usual day at the office had come to an end.
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