MUMBAI, Nov 23 (Agencies): Monty Panesar marked his Test return with four wickets but could find no way past Cheteshwar Pujara as the tireless India number three once again confounded England.
Without Pujara (114no), augmenting the unbeaten double-century he made in India’s nine-wicket first Test victory, England would surely have bowled their hosts out cheaply on day one of the second at the Wankhede Stadium.
He survived while the rest of the top six faltered against Panesar (four for 94) on a spinners’ pitch, and then shared consecutive 50 stands with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin (60no) to turn a vulnerable 119 for five into 266 for six by stumps.
The exact merit of that total will not be clear until England’s batsmen have tried their hand on a surface sure to provide plenty of assistance for India’s three specialist spinners.
But it was hard to escape the impression that Pujara had put India above par in a match likely to hurry to a conclusion inside the scheduled five days.
As in his tour de force 206 not out in Ahmedabad last week, he appeared in control throughout on the way to a near five-and-a-half hour century completed with a hook for his ninth four in James Anderson’s first over with the second new ball.
Panesar, back for his first Test in eight months after a clamour for his inclusion here, bagged the prize wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
In his 100th Test, opener Sehwag managed 30, and the great Tendulkar - perhaps playing on his home ground at the highest level for the last time - just eight. Anderson gave the tourists a near perfect start, in the first over of the match after India had won the toss.
Gautam Gambhir clipped him through midwicket for four first ball, but England’s premier pace bowler swung the next past bat on to pad to win an lbw. Alastair Cook took Anderson off after just three overs, however, and gave Panesar an early bowl.
England’s slow left-armer began with a nervy full-toss, which Sehwag duly clubbed wide of mid-on for four in an over costing nine runs. But his next was a maiden to Sehwag, and soon he got his man. It was not prodigious turn that did the trick, Panesar tending to operate at a full length and defeating Sehwag in flight to bowl him off-stump off his pads as the batsman tried to push to leg.
India 1st innings: Gambhir lbw b Anderson 4, Sehwag b Panesar 30, Pujara not out 114, Tendulkar b Panesar 8, Kohli c Compton b Panesar 19, Yuvraj b Swann 0, Dhoni c Swann b Panesar 29, Ashwin not out 60. Extras: (lb 1, nb 1) 2. Total: (6 wickets; 90 overs) 266. Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-52, 3-60, 4-118, 5-119, 6-169. Bowling: Anderson 14-3-49-1, Broad 12-1-60-0, Panesar 34-7-91-4, Swann 26-5-59-1, Patel 4-1-6-0.