Pujara conquers pitch challenge
Cheteshwar Pujara's organised technique and his composure at the crease won him plenty of fans after his double-century in Ahmedabad, but when he walked out to bat after two balls of the Mumbai Test, the challenges he was presented with were far more severe. Firstly, unlike in Ahmedabad, when he walked in to bat at 134 for 1 in the 30th over, the openers here had given him no platform to build on.
Secondly, the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium had a lot more in it in terms of bounce and movement for the fast bowlers than the one at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, especially in the first session. England's fast bowlers, armed with the new ball, seemed suitably enthused by the pitch and the early breakthrough. Pujara's technique, though, held firm in the face of this examination.
As the graphic shows, the height at which the deliveries arrived when James Anderson and Stuart Broad were bowling to Pujara was significantly different in the two matches. In Ahmedabad (right half of the graphic), Pujara was able to comfortably tuck the fast bowlers away for singles and twos (depicted by the yellow balls). At the Wankhede, his defensive technique against the short ball was subjected to a stiffer test, but Pujara came out of it well, either fending with soft hands or weaving out of the way. Once he also tapped a short one from Broad over the slips for four, showing fine presence of mind and an ability to keep the score moving no matter what length was bowled to him.
In all, Pujara scored 47 of his 114 runs off Anderson and Broad, and he did it in mostly orthodox fashion - keeping the good balls out with sound technique, and making the bowlers pay when they erred in length. His overall scoring rate against pace was 3.17 runs per over, which was much quicker than his rate against spin (2.11). His in-control percentage - the percentage of deliveries he middled or left alone - against pace was 94%, which again indicates that he adapted well to the pressures of a challenging pitch and a brand new ball.
|Full length/ yorker||7||11||2||9.43|
Against spin, he was equally assured, though he scored at a slower rate against them - his in-control percentage off Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar and Samit Patel was 90%, which is impressive considering the vagaries of the pitch.
Given that run-scoring was fairly difficult on this pitch, Pujara also worked out his scoring options well: 56 out of his 114 runs were scored through flicks or nudges on the leg side, which was a relatively safe method on a track where driving the ball wasn't easy. He also used the sweep shot a couple of times - a stroke he doesn't usually play - but that was only after he had settled in and played more than 200 deliveries. The first time he attempted that shot was in the 67th over of the innings, from Swann, as he took the ball from outside off and struck it powerfully to the square-leg boundary for four. Like most things he did today, that was a perfect stroke too.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter