Partnerships are the essence of Test cricket. Sometimes it is a collaboration of extremes, like fire and ice, that are eye-catching. But more often than not, particularly in batting, it is the forging of ties between 'likes’ that consolidates issues for the team.
Today was no different. England had posted a challenging total of 400. It was not a great total but on surfaces like the one at the Wankhede stadium it could be a test of character for rival batting line-ups.
A couple of quick and early wickets could have put enormous pressure on the home team's batsmen, particularly towards the close of play when puffs of dust were seen coming off the surface every time the ball was pitched around the good length area.
But Murali Vijay (70 batting, 109 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (47 batting, 102 balls) batted like champions and were remarkably comfortable during the fightback to underline their importance in the line-up.
Batting second on Indian pitches, principally the ones that show wear and tear, is not easy. As the day and match progress the pitches get worse, which is why it is always prudent to grind the opposition out of the match at the first opportunity. To do this it is vital that batsmen do not panic at the sight of the odd delivery doing a bit more than expected. Vijay and Pujara demonstrated the trait in ample measure and kept the bowlers at bay.
The pair’s batting was a revelation. Vijay was quick to use his feet. He stepped out every now and then and went for the big shots. This kept the pressure on the bowlers as they were not sure when he would step out and loft them or rock back to cut and pull. But he also showed good defensive tactics, and on the day, the bowlers were really confused on how to bowl to him.
At the other end, his partner in thwarting the England attack was Pujara whose amazing consistency of late has given tremendous confidence to his teammates.
The best part of the way Pujara batted was that he would play the ball late and squeeze it into the gaps to keep the score ticking over. His blade seemed broad as ever to the opposition bowlers and just when they thought they had got past his defence he would come down late on the ball and with great dexterity coax it into distant corners of the ground.
The endearing aspect of Pujara’s batting is the stability he lends to the top order. With Vijay too deciding that he would choose this occasion to once again show his prowess, the batting display over the two sessions was exemplary.
The 107 unbeaten runs the pair has already added for the second wicket eased the pains of losing opener KL Rahul (24) to a gem of a delivery that went through the 'gate'. Vijay’s unbeaten 70 showed purpose. Pujara, in the form of his life, is on 47 and he seems hungry for many more.
Their partnership would have reassured the rest of the Indian batsmen that they could really press on the advantage on the morrow and ensure that they keep the pressure on England.
The visitors, in fact, blew their chances of putting the match beyond the Indians by failing to put up an impregnable total. Of course, a total of 400 on this pitch would be very handy. But another 50 to 75 runs would have put the issue beyond India.
This is where the second great partnership for India proved so useful: Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Ashwin who picked up six for 112, his 23rd five wicket haul in Tests, and Jadeja (four for 109) bowled very well in tandem. Left-arm spinner Jadeja knew his role in the partnership and pegged away on a tight line and length while Ashwin wove his magic from the other end. The duo harassed the batsmen no end and promised them that the second innings, if anything, would be more torturous.
India, at the end of the second day of the fourth Test are in a good position. But they are not yet out of the woods. They need to ensure that their batting in this innings and the bowling in the next innings would be so focused that the fourth innings target would not exceed 150. More crucial partnerships hold the key.
Updated Date: Dec 09, 2016 18:38:34 IST