England yesterday endured a foretaste of what may lie ahead as India’s Test No 3 Cheteshwar Pujara made them toil with an extended demonstration of his talents.
The tourists were warned, of course, there would be days like these at some point on their eight-week Test trip.
On the middle one of three in their second match at the Dr DY Patil Sports Stadium, they found out at first hand for themselves.
An emerging force in India’s Test team but one with whom England would not previously have been familiar, Pujara (87) batted for almost four-and-a-half hours as Mumbai A posted 232-4.
And to add to England’s worries, stand-in captain Stuart Broad was sent for a scan on a heel injury suffered late in the day.
Pujara and his less heralded third-wicket partner Hiken Shah (84no) each needed 140 balls to reach 50, Pujara slightly more expansive in hitting seven boundaries to the left-hander’s four.
They were never in the remotest hurry in a stand of 163, but gradually upped the ante – just 67 runs eked out in the afternoon, then 122 more coming after tea.
Pujara and Shah set an expert tempo in their own stamina-sapping conditions, softening England up on a benign surface and then taking toll of tired limbs and minds.
Pujara proved especially adept off his pads, and effective in defence, but his most telling skill was risk avoidance.
Broad increasingly favoured spin over seam, deploying himself in notably short spells and James Anderson and Graham Onions sparingly too.
But nothing he tried could shift the third-wicket pair, until Monty Panesar turned one sharply from a perfect length to have Pujara caught at slip.
England managed a solitary success in each of the first two sessions – courtesy of Onions and Yorkshire’s Joe Root – and then two in the third, Anderson having Suryakumar Yadav caught-behind with the second new ball just before stumps.
After the tourists had stuttered from an overnight 338-6 to a declaration on 345-9 in the morning, Anderson found early swing but no wickets.
It was first-change Onions who got the breakthrough,
Bahvin Thakkar had needed 33 balls to get off the mark, eventually clipping Anderson off his legs for a single.
Emboldened, he drove the next delivery he faced through the covers off Onions for his first boundary – only to go caught behind immediately afterwards, to a length ball which the opener made it clear he did not think he had hit.
Pujara therefore joined Shikhar Dawan, either side of lunch, until the latter was caught at slip when Sheffield-born Root got one to grip and bounce with his occasional off-spin.
There was turn available too for Panesar, and Broad began to favour spin – with Samit Patel also in action.
But save for a sharp chance which went begging to Anderson at slip off Panesar with Pujara on 22, he in particular was suitably assured alongside Shah.
England had little joy, batting on for half-an-hour first thing and mustering just seven runs in as many overs.
Broad was lbw, playing across Shardul Thakur, and at the other end next ball Kshemal Waingankar took his wicket tally to three when Patel (60) edged an outswinger to the wicketkeeper.
Thakur also finished with three, Onions mystified to be given out caught-behind after apparently being completely beaten by one that swung back into him and kept low.
England responded with a prompt declaration.
Their obvious intention was to accelerate proceedings in the hope of forcing victory to follow an opening draw against India A, but they knew one of the first necessary steps would be to see off Pujara.
It was to take them a while to get past first base.
Sri Lanka won the first one-day international against New Zealand by 14 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method as rain continued to disrupt the Black Caps’ tour.
Rain had washed out both the one-off Twenty20 clash and the first ODI in Colombo and also deprived yesterday’s crowd in Pallekele of a potentially exciting finish.
A result was at least possible on this occasion, with New Zealand making 250-6 and the hosts responding with 118-3 before the day’s second rain stoppage proved to be final.
Ross Taylor made 72 and BJ Watling also registered a half-century as the Kiwis posted a competitive total in their 50 overs.
Rob Nicol made 46 from 74 balls before falling to Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara taking the catch behind the wicket, with Lasith Malinga having already removed Tom Latham for just two.
Mahela Jayawardene was well-placed to catch Watling for 55 at short mid-wicket to give the economical Rangana Herath (1-28) a wicket.
In response, Upul Tharanga made only six and Sri Lanka were 37-1 when rain forced an interruption of 45 minutes after seven overs.
Sangakkara fell for 11 to the third ball after resumption but Tillakaratne Dilshan and Jayawardene shared a partnership of 59, manipulating the strike calmly and picking off occasional boundaries.
Dilshan made an uncharacteristically restrained 37, from 51 balls, before the introduction of McCullum brought a breakthrough for New Zealand via a catch at mid-wicket by Kane Williamson.
But the weather intervened again with one ball of the 23rd over remaining and Sri Lanka on 118-3, ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par of 104 and with the requisite 20 overs completed. Jayawardene was left unbeaten on 43.
Broad’s injury causes concern for test match
Stuart Broad’s heel injury adds to England’s mounting concerns as they continue preparations for the Test series in India.
Vice-captain Broad was last night set to undergo a scan, after having to leave the field temporarily because of pain in his left foot on day two against Mumbai A.
The seamer returned after four overs but did not bowl again, having managed 10 overs previously – in four short spells – as England’s hosts reached 232-4 in reply to 345-9 declared.
An update on Broad’s heel is expected today, when England also hope to discover whether Stuart Meaker – already called in as pace-bowling cover for the injured Steven Finn – has overcome visa issues and will therefore be able to fly to India in time for a final warm-up fixture before the first Test in Ahmedabad.
That opening match of four in what is sure to prove a tough series begins on November 15 – and before Broad also succumbed to injury, it was thought probable Finn’s sore thigh would keep him out of the reckoning until the second Test back in Mumbai.
England endured an awkward day all round at the Dr DY Patil Sports Stadium, where they got a longer first look than they might have wished at India No 3 Cheteshwar Pujara (87) – who shared a third-wicket stand of 163 with Hiken Shah (84 not out).
With or without Broad, it does not appear Pujara for one will be losing any sleep about England’s bowlers after his first experience against them.
“I was pretty comfortable against all the bowlers,” he said. “I guess, since I’ve scored runs, I’ll have learned more (than them). I hadn’t faced many of England’s bowlers before, so it was important I got some practice (against them) before the Test series.
“I could get used to their actions, what kind of strengths (they have) and strategies against me.”
Pujara eventually fell to Monty Panesar, and described England’s left-arm spinner as the “pick” of the attack. It remains unlikely Panesar will feature in the first Test. But whoever does, Pujara is expecting them to up their game.
“It won’t be the same in the Test match, because I think the intensity will be higher.
“I think their fielding was not quite up to the mark here, but will be in the Test.”
Pujara’s approach was reminiscent of the discipline employed by Rahul Dravid, a batsman known universally as ‘The Wall’ and one England – and most other nations – found especially difficult to displace for many years.
“It’s not quite the same, but I guess I can see where you’re coming from,” said Panesar.
“He accumulates his runs; he’s not going to come after the attack, and just plays a patient game.”