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India declare at 521-8, England disintegrate to 41-3

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cheteshwar_pujaraAn unbeaten double century from Cheteshwar Pujara, and a late burst from India's spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha has put hosts India comfortably in the driver's seat in the first test at Ahmedabad against England. Pujara (206*) shared a 130-run stand for the fifth wicket with Yuvraj Singh (74) to help India reach an imposing 521-8 in their first innings before declaring mid-way through the last session of Day 2. England's batsmen had a tricky 18 over window to survive before the close of play, but struggled in terms of their basic technique against the turning ball with Ashwin grabbing two top order wickets while Ojha removed the night watchman as the visitors slumped to 41-3 at stumps. India are a comfortable 480 runs ahead at this stage, and England face a tricky trial by spin on Day 3 in Ahmedabad.

India's overnight batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Cheteshwar Pujara began day 2 on a positive note after being largely circumspect late on day 1, looking to consolidate India's position.

Pujara had to wait for a couple of overs to get to the coveted 100 from his overnight score but runs started to flow for him straight after as he looked at ease against Swann and Co. Yuvraj Singh on the other hand was more than a little fortunate to survive a close LBW shout off just the second ball of the day from Swann before beginning to assert his authority on the sessions proceedings. The elegant left hander lofted Graeme Swann for a straight six over long off before pulling out a thunderous sweep shot that nearly carried all the way over the square leg boundary. Stuart Broad on the other hand, wasn't very effective looking to hit the deck as both Yuvraj and Pujara picked runs off him on the on side without much ado. At the hour mark on day 2, India were looking good again at 367/4 with Pujara and Yuvraj looking threatening.

Things got tougher for the tourists after the drinks interval with Yuvraj and Pujara showing no signs of letting go. Both batsmen seemed content to bide their time out in the middle and were setting themselves up for the long haul. Yuvraj got to a well deserved half century straight after the break with a typical pull shot off Samit Patel and then was content in picking up the singles, putting the odd loose ball away to the boundary. Pujara lived up to his reputation of being a patient grafter as was solid after his hundred too despite the dip in scoring rate. As a result of another century plus stand India moved to a dominant position at Lunch at 410/4, with an intention of batting England out of the game. The increase in the scoring rate was almost a certainty post lunch with the likes of Dhoni and Ashwin still to come. England though did well to keep the rate down and looked to take as much time out of the match as possible.

England's perseverance eventually paid off post Lunch as they picked up a couple of quick wickets to halt India's march. England's 5th bowler Samit Patel broke the 130 run stand between between Pujara and Yuvraj after Lunch in the most unlikely fashion, having Yuvraj(74) caught at Long on off a rank full toss that the powerful southpaw mistimed up in air. India's skipper M S Dhoni then walked in No.7 and was subdued on the motera wicket that seemed to be slowing up further as the game went along. England option for defense fields and held one end up with Samit Patel bowling over the wicket outside the right handers leg-stump. Pujara, however, kept his composure and waited for the occasional bad delivery to put away to the fence, in the process bring up his 2nd 150 in test cricket. at the other end though Graeme Swann was brought back into the attack just before drinks and he struck in his first over, getting Dhoni(5) to drag a slog sweep onto his stumps. As a result of that double blow India were reduced to 447/6 at the half way mark in the second session.

Cheteshwar Pujara found a useful partner in R Ashwin, who once again showed his value batting at no.8, sharing in a 66 run stand with the local lad. India went into tea having just sneaked their way past 500, with Pujara within sniffing distance of his double hundred, unbeaten on 196.

It took Pujara only two overs to bring up his maiden test double hundred, a class knock, albeit in friendly conditions.

India lost a couple of wickets shortly after. Ashwin made a patient 23 before edging a Kevin Pietersen delivery to Prior, who did well to finally hang on to a chance. There was more joy to come for England as Jimmy Anderson finally got the visitors their first wicket courtesy a seamer, having Zaheer Khan caught in the gully for 7. India declared shortly after at 521-8, leaving England with 18 overs to bat before the close of play.

India unsurprisingly tossed the new ball to Ravichandran Ashwin, giving the rookie off-spinner a chance to bowl with a harder ball with a prominent seam. He started though with a rank short ball which England skipper Alastair Cook dispatched to the fence with consumate ease. Cook added a second boundary on the final ball of the opening over, a fortuitous bottom edge which went through MS Dhoni's legs and raced to the fence.

The first 13 overs failed to produce a breakthrough for India as Cook grew in confidence, while debutant Nick Compton acclimatized himself to alien conditions. Compton's debut innings saw him face 53 deliveries, for 9 runs before he got a peach of a delivery from Ashwin, which crept through the narrowest of gaps between bat and pad to the pleasant sound of timber.

England surprisingly sent in the night watchman James Anderson, and there was no chance that the left-hander would survive 5 overs before the close of play. Anderson was dropped on the fifth ball he faced by Pujara off Ojha, and MS Dhoni responded by reinforcing the close-in leg-side field, while resulted in India getting an immediate chance to pick him up again next ball, with Gambhir doing the needful at forward short-leg.

In the very next over, India made it three on the bounce as Jonathan Trott fell for naught, also caught at bat-pad with Ashwin getting his second of the innings.

Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen survived the 4 odd overs remaining in the day to take England through to the close at a precarious 41-3. The skipper had made his way to 22, while Pietersen had made a run a ball 6. The England batsmen will need one of these two to go on and make a big score if they are to stand any chance of competing in this test match.

With the ball already turning sharply and variable bounce entering the equation, England will have their work cut out for them on Day 3 in Ahmedabad. India meanwhile will look to press home their advantage and pick up 2-3 wickets in the mornin session to give themselves every chance of forcing a result from this game.

Teams:

India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, Y Singh, M S Dhoni, R Ashwin, Z Khan, U Yadav, P Ojha

England:·N Compton, A Cook, I Bell, K Pietersen, J Trott, S Patel, M Prior, T Bresnan, G Swann, S Broad, J Anderson

Mini Scorecard

India 1st Innings 521/8 declared (137 overs, 3.2 rpo)
V Sehwag 117(117) G Swann 5/124
C Pujara 205* (383) K Pietersen 1/25

Photograph Copyright: BCCI