Monty Panesar confident England can repeat early success
17:13 23 November 2012
Monty Panesar cherished the memory of his and England’s early successes after Cheteshwar Pujara subsequently stifled their progress on day one of the second Test.
India’s Pujara (114 not out) refused to bow to the pressure applied by Panesar in the first two sessions at the Wankhede Stadium, where England are seeking to bounce back from their nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad.
In his first Test for eight months Panesar took four for 91, including the prized wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
But he could not shift Pujara, England’s chief tormentor with an unbeaten double-hundred last week and the principal reason here why they could not press home the afternoon advantage of 119 for five as India closed on 266 for six.
On a pitch which favoured spin from the outset, and with England scheduled to bat last, the hosts’ recovery may prove telling.
Left-arm spinner Panesar said: “I thought we stuck at it really well out there. We put a lot of pressure on the Indian batters early doors, which is something they probably didn’t expect.
“They won the toss, looked to have a bat and probably thought maybe they’d only have a few wickets down for 200-plus.
“But we applied a lot of pressure to them and having five wickets down really early was a testament to how we did that.”
Panesar concedes Pujara, specifically in his unbroken partnership of 97 with Ravichandran Ashwin (60no), has regained some ground.
“They obviously built a really good partnership. What we’re hoping is we can restrict them to under 300,” Panesar added.
“That kind of partnership has given a bit of momentum to the Indian innings, but overall I don’t think they expected us to dominate the first two sessions like that.”
Ashwin had some ominous observations for England.
The off-spinner, one of three specialist slow bowlers in the home attack, senses this pitch - unlike Ahmedabad’s Sardar Patel Stadium - will make batting methods such as those successfully employed in the first Test by England captain Alastair Cook much harder to pull off.
“There’s a lot more bounce,” Ashwin said. “I don’t think you can really plonk your foot forward and keep defending. There’s definitely more aid for the spinner, whereas Ahmedabad was low and slow.
“When it starts spinning (here), it does go, it’s quite a tough wicket to bat on.
“At this point in time we’ve got to a position where we can feel a little comfortable...if we can get a more runs I think we can put a lot of pressure on them.”
It is hard to believe Pujara, batting in the image of recently-retired India great Rahul Dravid, is playing only his seventh Test.
The 24-year-old continues to seamlessly replicate the work of ‘The Wall’ and received fulsome praise from Ashwin.
“I thought it was a brilliant knock,” Ashwin said. “He trusted his defence and it was a very well paced innings.”
England almost dismissed Pujara in fluke circumstances for 94 and Panesar had him dropped 30 runs earlier.
Ashwin has had a little more success against him in domestic cricket and added: “I’ve got him out quite a few times lbw.
“But he’s got a great temperament, and is in great form, and he’s someone who will keep on grinding the runs.
“He doesn’t get small hundreds, he gets big ones.”
Panesar was rightly delighted to dismiss the mighty Tendulkar and celebrated accordingly.
If he can work out how to shift Pujara again - as he did, eventually, for 87 in an early tour match here - there may be more high fives all round.
For eternal optimist Panesar, the even greater goal of winning the four-match series remains.
“If we can win the series that will be brilliant for us, the first time in 27 years,” he said. “If we do that, Christmas will be nice back home.”