Cheteshwar Pujara’s 319-ball vigil at the crease at Melbourne highlighted a strong day for India in the Boxing Day Test on Friday with the top-order batsman registering his second ton of the series in the process.
It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye knock from Pujara, but it was one which perfectly embodied everything that makes the India man tick as a top Test batsman.
Taking 280 deliveries to get to the three-figure mark, Pujara brought up the slowest of his 17 Test centuries in an innings which bore testament to his immaculate powers of concentration at the crease and the supreme price he puts on his wicket.
A strike-rate of just over 33 might not make Pujara’s innings the most exciting to watch but for a cricketing purist, there is no better sight than to see a batsman grind down the bowlers with an old-school technique and temperament that is fast becoming a rare sight in modern cricket.
That a batsman of Virat Kohli’s calibre struggled to stamp his authority, despite scoring 82, showed that the Melbourne pitch was not an easy one to bat on. Despite his slow-scoring rate, it was Pujara who managed to look the more authoritative of batsmen from the two.
It has been a stark turnaround in overseas fortunes for the 30-year-old batsman whose credentials at home have always been unquestionable. However, his overseas record told a different tale with just one ton to show for in 17 away Tests heading into 2018.
His 2018 did not get off to the best of starts either as India’s batsmen, bar Kohli, struggled heavily on the tour of South Africa. Despite registering a vital half-century in India’s 63-run win in the third and final Test at the Wanderers, Pujara’s place in the side was thrown into question when the team toured England in the summer.
The right-hander was dropped from the playing XI for the first Test between England and India at Birmingham with doubts being raised over his slow run-scoring tempo. Pujara was summarily reintroduced into the playing XI as the series wore on and showed his class with a 72 in Trent Bridge, before registering an unbeaten 132 at Southampton.
Despite being one of the better Indian batsmen on the tour, there were still question marks over Pujara’s spot in the side when India flew down for the tour of Australia. With the series now approaching its climax, Pujara’s overseas credentials have well and truly been strengthened.
Since 1 Jan 2017, Cheteshwar Pujara is the only batsman to face over 4000 balls in Test cricket!— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) December 27, 2018
He has so far faced 4633 balls in 40 innings i.e. facing an ave of 116 balls per innings.
Next best: 3796 balls in 39 innings by Virat Kohli (ave balls/inns: 97)#AusvInd#AusvsInd
In 10 overseas Tests this year, the India man has registered three centuries with all of them coming under testing conditions in England and Australia. No batsman in international cricket has faced more deliveries in Tests since January, 2017. Over the past two years, Pujara has faced a staggering 4,633 deliveries in 40 innings at an average of nearly 116 per innings.
That statistic in itself sums up everything about Pujara as a batsman and it pleasing to see the classical batsman final get his dues. With more than 2,000 overseas Test runs under his belt now and an average of nearly 40, he is finally fulfilling the promise he has shown ever since he was racking up the mammoth scores in domestic cricket.
It has taken some time coming, but Pujara has finally turned into the ‘Wall’ India have been searching for in overseas conditions following the retirement of Rahul Dravid.
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