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Compton, Anderson and Trott all out as Pujara and India leave England teetering

England's Nick Compton bats during the final day of the practice match against Mumbai A. in India. Photo credit: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade England's Nick Compton bats during the final day of the practice match against Mumbai A. in India. Photo credit: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Friday, November 16, 2012
11:54 AM

England made a hapless start in their efforts to save the first Test, despite an eight-and-a-half-hour demonstration from Cheteshwar Pujara of the skills they need to do so.

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India’s 521 for eight declared owed much to Pujara’s tour de force 206 not out, and more than a little too to the adventure of Virender Sehwag with his destructive hundred yesterday.

The upshot on day two at the Sardar Patel Stadium was that new England captain Alastair Cook and debutant Nick Compton’s first task, in pursuit of an opening stalemate in this four-match series, was to come through 18 overs unscathed.

Cook survived. But Compton, nightwatchman James Anderson and then Jonathan Trott could not stay with him in a distinctly unpromising stumps total of 41 for three.

England were confronted immediately with Ravichandran Ashwin’s much-hyped variations, and spin at both ends by the 10th over when slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha joined in.

A big off-break was too much for Compton, turning between bat and pad to hit leg-stump and give Ashwin his 50th Test wicket, in record Indian time.

Anderson went bat-pad to Ojha an over later, and then in the next Trott fell likewise to Ashwin.

Pujara had earlier ploughed on remorselessly to a maiden double-hundred at this level in only his sixth Test.

He shared a fifth-wicket stand of 130 with Yuvraj Singh (74), and put on another 66 for the seventh with Ashwin before England were granted a rest - after 160 overs of hard and largely unrewarded slog in the sun.

Graeme Swann eventually took his wicket tally to five, for the 14th time for his country, but his successes here came at a cost of 144 runs on a lifeless surface offering only slow and irregular turn.

If there was a consolation for England, it was that this pitch has yet to show any significant signs of deterioration - and therefore their prospects of closing out a draw should remain viable.

During their second consecutive wicketless morning, Yuvraj passed a poignant comeback half-century - in his first Test innings since recovering from cancer - and Pujara completed India’s second individual hundred of the match.

Yuvraj reached his 98-ball 50 with a big hit over midwicket off Swann for his fifth four, to go with a one straight six also off the off-spinner.

England gave the ball, only four overs old, to Swann rather than seam at each end this morning.

But the closest they came to a breakthrough before lunch was with a series of lbw appeals, the most convincing of which was Swann’s from only the second ball of the day when Yuvraj missed a sweep without addition to his overnight 24.

He and Pujara then appeared to target Swann, taking 15 off one over - including that six from Yuvraj - but Cook kept his nerve, and the off-spinner continued.

By then, Pujara had moved from his start-of-play 98 past his hundred, from 190 balls.

It soon turned into a ‘groundhog’ experience for England - although, to defensive fields, runs did not come as quickly as they had for Sehwag 24 hours earlier.

Cook employed some unconventional fielding positions at times, posting a seven-two off-side arrangement - with no catchers behind the bat - to help Anderson dry up the run-rate against Pujara.

The stoic number three is not a batsman to respond with a loss of patience, however, and it seemed England’s best hope was to try to out-bore him and hope for a mistake from Yuvraj.

It was not until early afternoon that they had any respite.

Yuvraj clubbed a Samit Patel full-toss to Swann in the leg-side deep, and then the off-spinner put himself back in the wickets column too when Mahendra Singh Dhoni deflected an attempted sweep down on to his stumps.

Pujara remained less co-operative, still showing no signs of weariness as he negotiated a third successive full session in an innings which would eventually encompass 389 balls.

It also contained 21 fours, many classy deflections to leg and a collection driven down the ground - until England’s damage limitation left him little option but to pick off runs into that packed off-side.

Kevin Pietersen had Ashwin edging a cut behind, but it was not until Zaheer Khan speared an attempted drive at Anderson to Trott at backward point that the first wicket at last fell to pace.

Shortly afterwards, with Pujara’s double-century safely in the book, Dhoni decided it was time for England’s batsmen to be tested.

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