India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 2nd day March 3, 2013

A partnership much like a holiday romance

There was a Test century to each man, M Vijay's second, Cheteshwar Pujara's fourth and India hoofed across the Australian first innings total. At stumps, India were 311 for 1, ahead of Australia by 74

Put M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara alongside each other wearing anything other than cricket whites or training gear and they will have little in common.

Ask them to talk to each other in the language they speak at home and incomprehensibility will rule. There's a very good chance they do not share, leave alone friends, the same taste in food, music, lifestyle or even favourite cricket shots.

What Vijay and Pujara did share on day two in Hyderabad, however, was the ability to sing in perfect sync from the same cricketing sheet. They began with a low sonorous bass all through the first session, but by the time the second new ball was due an hour before stumps, they had hit the high notes.

There was a Test century to each man, Vijay's second, Pujara's fourth and India hoofed across the Australian first innings total. At stumps, India were 311 for 1, ahead of Australia by 74.

A day that began with a session whose scoreline read 49 for 1 in 27 overs, and looked like it was in Australia's favour, was snatched away with India scoring 257 runs in 63 overs after lunch without losing a wicket.

There were two remarkable aspects of Vijay and Pujara's unbeaten 294-run second-wicket partnership. The first was Vijay's ability to meld his batting into a manner of play that, for the better part of two hours, could have belonged to Pujara. The other was Pujara's willingness to absorb, from very early in the day, pain from an injury in his left leg and then spend nearly six hours more at the crease, at times limping and hobbling and diving full length into his crease to ensure he wouldn't lose out on a morning of labour.

The final session of play, when both men completed their centuries as the second new ball neared, generated crowd-pleasing shots. Freebies were gobbled up and 151 runs scored in 30 overs with Australia's bowling looking tattered and mentally frayed. But the foundation of the partnership and indeed its signature, was laid in the first session when the Australian seamers charged in and Vijay and Pujara were willing to grind and defend.

The two strains of effort from Vijay and Pujara have gone to produce one of India's more carefully-structured days of Test cricket in recent years. What is important is that India's innings was not shepherded by a seasoned hand, but batsmen who have played 23 Tests between them.

In the last ten years, recent memory says that India have seen off a tough first session and cashed after lunch only twice. In the Boxing Day Test of 2003-04, Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra scored 26 runs off the first 16 overs, went in to lunch at 89 for 0 in 27 overs and India finished the day at 329 for 4.

Six years later, India were 92 for 0 in 18 overs against Sri Lanka in Mumbai at lunch, and followed the next two sessions with 260 for 1 at tea and 443 for 1 by stumps. Sehwag again was the central reason for India's rapid acceleration. By sheer coincidence, his partner in Mumbai happened to be Vijay.

On Sunday, much was in Vijay and Pujara's favour in Hyderabad. They were batting at home, Australia's first innings total - 237 for 9 declared - was miserly and the lateral movement off the wicket was not lethal. What they had to handle though was the early loss of Sehwag, a bowling attack that was fresh, keen and disciplined, and the early morning help for the seamers. By the time the first hour of play was done, India had scored only 26 more runs in the 13 overs bowled in the morning.

Michael Clarke had cut off the single-scoring opportunities, negated the drop-and-run with men at short cover and short midwicket and stuck David Warner in at mid-off to put doubt into the mind of a batsman trying to take the straight, sober single. The batsmen were being challenged to hit corkscrewing shots into the air.

Vijay and Pujara knew this was not the time to hurry. There were no planes, trains or automobiles to be caught. While Pujara, by and large, is neither hurried or lured, it was Vijay, the gung-ho, big hitting opener, who discovered that playing early monk could help.

He got behind the line and defended stoutly on his front foot, swayed away from the short ball and when it followed him, jabbed it down. This is Vijay's comeback series and his hometown Chennai had given him little joy with scores of 10 and 6, dismissed in both innings by James Pattinson.

Hyderabad would have brought some manner of epiphany - he faced 10 overs from Pattinson, scored only 14 runs, but dug out the 140kph yorkers and got out of the way of the beastlier of the short balls.

Pujara, a quiet well-spoken 25-year-old, can be an utter gourmand when it comes to big runs. He has scored them by the bucketful in domestic cricket, knows how to pace an innings in Indian conditions and loves converting scores just like he enjoys consuming runs. Of his five 50 plus scores in Test cricket, Pujara's tally reads, 72, 159, 206*, 135 and now 162 not out. Vijay gave enough glimpses of power and aggression in his innings of 129. But on a day when alter-egos found expression, it was Pujara who hooked Peter Siddle for a six off the second new ball to reach his 150.

Cricketing partnerships can often end up like holiday romances: intense, memorable but transient. India must wish that Hyderabad 2013 is only the start of a beautiful friendship between the two batsmen who have given India all the controls of this Test.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sanwar on March 4, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    Unnecessary article specially involving Murali Vijay and for worse comparing him with Pujara and calling this inception of their friendship. Please ESPNCricinfo don't down your standards. Murali Vijay is a nothing players of full too attitude and got backing from God knows who in BCCI. He sets a bad examples whenever he plays in any form of Cricket and there is Pujara who is humble and a crack of shot maker. We all have seen what good Murali did yesterday while not taking those 2s and 3s. and also do not praise him too much...we have seen in past too he would never be a up to the mark player or human.

  • Shyam on March 4, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    The title of the post, and the first few paragraphs promised that this would be a very poetic kind of article. It could have been, if the writer would have not included stats, and just would have let the pen flow. There are many batting innings in test matches, but only some are considered worthy of being termed as classic. This article could have been one.

  • D on March 4, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    Vijay and Pujara certainly played well and made full use of the luck presented them, but if you had seen their calling and running between the wickets, Pujara's overenthusiastic running and Vijay's poor calling, you would think twice before calling their partnership, "sing in perfect sync".

  • Subramani on March 4, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Auatralia in 1998 under Tendulkar. The same chaps rose in droves calling for Rahul.s head. He was an intelligent young man. He made adjustments and went back in 2004 DownUnder. He showed what greatness was all about against the best that Australia could throw at him. Then like Gavaskar Dravid grew to his full stature. The point is that we should wait an watch a great in not pull him down. Some havethe ability to rise above these criticisms. Others do not. that is the sorrow. I remember Sanjay Manjrekar was seen as the next great after gavaskar from the Bombay stable. Then he went to Australia and did not do as well as expected. The critics were back in business and he just failed to make adjustments that were needed. He could have been a great from India but thanks to venomous reporting, he just whithered away. I wish we would croticise by pointing out mistakes. I would like Pujara and Kohli to go early to South Africa this winter. That could be a great move.

  • Subramani on March 4, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    I cannot understand so much of debate to try and pull down someone who shows qualities of becoming a great like Pujara looks like becoming one day. As nyc_missile rightly said we have to see whether the new batsman has certain parameters which point to him being likely to do well on bouncy wickets. If he does then we should wait and watch. Once in South Africa, it is also possible that Steyn gets him on a couple of occasions. That does not reduce him to a padded bundle because Steyn is not a after dinner pie thrower. He is a champion. Probably the greatest ever fast bowler.When Gavaskar scored 774 in 4 tests in West Indies in 1971, most people knew that he was destined for greatness. Then there was a long lean patcg till 1974.That was when such critics rose like lilliputs. Till he hit that great hundred on a green top against Snow and Price in England. The prophets of doom felt humiliated. Simlarly, after a great start in England and South Africa, Dravid failed on his first visit to...

  • karthik on March 4, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    To doubters of Pujara,the only fact that he hasn't played abroad does not mean that he will invariably fail there! You look at some traits in a player;like a pull/hook shot or a spanking square assess and judge whether he will succeed overseas or not.Pujara has all the above and temperament to match them.So most certainly he will flourish in SA.Fact that he had collared Eng spinners in A'bad & Mumbai on a mine-field with aggressive foot-work means he is just a rounded player.Hopefully he is the next Dravid in the making.He may not be as pleasing on the eye as Dravid was but surely got his class..

  • Arun on March 4, 2013, 5:39 GMT

    @Rumy: You contradict yourself. If you claim that you have to deliver on day one in International cricket instead of learning on the job, Bajji shouldn't be in the team to begin with. by your own admission, he was 10% at Bombay, vs. England. Why should India select a 10% bowler, who is 10% despite being out of the side for over a year, and has been playing Ranji without anything outstanding? With the amount of experience Bajji has, he should be the leader of the pack. he isnt, not even close. jadeja seems to be more likely to get wickets than him. Form might be temporary, but an extended loss of form is no different from the lack of class. When Bajji is at 75%, he can be picked. If not (he's not even 50%), he should stay out.

  • karthik on March 4, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    @anonymous Fair point but at least Pujara has the temparement and technique to survive in SA.I wouldnt put beyond him to come up with similar innings especially if you consider he succeeded against a far superior Eng side than the current Oz one on not-so Indian pitches last year.

    As for Dhoni,surprised? Please remember that I only meant it in context of tests and not ODIs.He's just an awfully 'lucky' captain to still be the test captain.No body in the history of Ind cricket has survived 2 disgraceful whitewashes abroad and a humiliating home series loss..W/O Srinivasan around,he would have been history by now as test captain.Moreover my biggest problem with him is knack of killing genuine talents(Rahane,Tiwary,Rayudu,Ojha,Sreesanth etc) and grooming mediocre players for obvious reasons.So as long as Dhoni stays test captain,we will suffer long term reversal notwithstanding a few wins at home against average teams.Because even at home,quality oppn Eng showed us up

  • Arun on March 4, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    @Rumy: You're remind me of the curious emotion that creates stock-market bubbles; Alan Greenspan called it irrational exuberance. Bajji is 10% in Bombay, 50% in Madras, therefore, the extrapolation would suggest that he'd be more than 150% by the time the series ends? If only things worked that way; we'd all be millionaires. Bajji barely managed to pick wickets on a pitch that turned square, against a team that couldn't play spin. At hyd, the only top-order wicket he got was off a long-hop. And if that was his 50%, his 50% wasn't anywhere near Ashwin. If guile and flight is naturally endowed, and cannot be learned, as you suggest, I wonder where it has disappeared. I'd also remind you that Kumble was a fast bowler when he started out, and initially bowled legspin as one, but you don't seem one who's swayed by data. As for me, I'd go with a bowler who took more than 10 wickets, mostly top-order, on a helpful pitch, than one who got a few tail-end wickets on the same pitch.

  • Subramani on March 4, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    A good backfoot player is the one who plays the shot he intends to with his body weight on the back foot as opposed to playing with the weight on the front foot like one needs to be in a front foot cover drive. A good back foot player is one who naturally goes on to his backfoot in playing a shot as often as he can.Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are natural and excellent back foot players. It will be seen that even when they play the hook, they move onto the front foot first then to the back foot from where they play the shot. Most Australians play that way. Pujara is a natural back foot player. He does not have to display his back foot prowess abroad to earn that tag. Geoff Boycott said the same about him. On Australian and South African wickets it pays to be a good backfoot player because of the bouncy wickets. On such wickets the good length balls rise upto the chest sometimes. What is non negotiable is a good defence of either foot. Without that you cannot succeeed anywhere.