We’ve seen this before and we’ve seen it yet again – the immovable object in Cheteshwar Pujara and the unstoppable force in Rishabh Pant have not collided, but somehow, found great joy in co-existing.
India was in dire straits as 73-4 with the openers Rohit Sharma and Shubhman Gill, the captain Virat Kohli and the vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane back in the change room as Rishabh Pant walked out.
The situation was tense, but Pant, who as usual, did not make much of it and went about his counter-attack.
India finished the day at 257/6, courtesy of a tremendous 119-run-partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant. The hosts still trail by 321, but the momentum picked up by these two individuals will give them hope – here’s why the partnership and the contribution by Pujara and Pant must be noted.
A fifth fifty-plus partnership between the duo
In the last six times, these two have batted together, Pant and Pujara have had a 50-plus-partnership on five occasions (89, 3, 53, 148, 61, 119 (today) – clear indications that these two individuals have enjoyed batting with one another.
— Cricket News (@cricketnews_com) February 7, 2021
The numbers listed above were partnerships that saw India escape some tricky situations in Australia and nearly gave India reassurance on day three versus England.
To the naked eye, the young and dynamic Pant in comparison to the serviceman-esque Pujara seems completely different cricketer – and they are – but their styles have complemented each other and hence they’ve made merry. Moreover, they have also acknowledged each other’s limitations and have addressed them beautifully.
They call well between the wickets keeping in mind Pujara’s limitations, Pujara takes the mantle on to see off a bowler with his tail up, freeing Pant to score freely, and while Pant scores freely, Pujara does not need to worry about the scoreboard ticking – making them a terrific pair!
Pant continues to find joy batting in India
Rishabh Pant looked comfortable throughout his innings of 91; in fact, he looked comfortable from the very first ball he faced.
The 23-year-old took the attack to Jack Leach right away, by covering his off-stump and dispatching the traditional left-armer over mid-wicket and long-on with ease.
Joe Root did dispatch fielders to the boundary right away and continued to persist with that tactic, ultimately resulting in Pant’s dismissal, but not before the left-hander made yet another impression in the recent past, also, on Indian soil.
Pant has scored 92, 92, and 91 in his first three innings in India. He becomes only the second Indian player to hit 50-plus scores in his first three innings in India. The first was Virat Kohli who scored 52, 63, 58, 103, and 51* in his first five innings in home conditions
While Pant will be gutted to have perished yet again in the 90s, he made a sizable contribution to the total after India’s disastrous start.
Pujara tapped into his scoring areas
Cheteshwar Pujara perished for 77 in an unlucky fashion, but what stood apart is the manner in which he got his runs.
The 32-year-old hit 11 boundaries in his innings and batted at a strike rate of 51 – higher than his strike rate in the recently concluded India’s tour of Australia and that’s because England played to his strengths.
Since 2015, Pujara has scored 22% runs of the flick, 22% off the pull, and 13% runs off the cover drive in test cricket. And even today, he looked to play these particular strokes off Dom Bess in particular, stepping out to play him past mid-off and quick to pounce on the short-ball as well, dispatching him past the same area in the 30th over.
Pujara also made runs off the short and wide ball that was presented to him – something the Australians did not allow him to as much on the tour Down Under.
The intent was visible in him to score more freely, thus seeing back-to-back boundaries as well on more than one occasion and this is undoubtedly a good sign for India.
And so, while India is undoubtedly in a perilous situation heading into day four, the management will take joy from the performance they witnessed from Cheteswar Pujara and Rishabh Pant. The two made batting look a lot easier than the other Indian batsman did and will be keen for Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin to take a leaf out of their books.
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