England swing one away from India
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On Saturday, Cheteshwar Pujara must have been a torn man. His side Saurashtra, for whom he had made more runs in just three matches than all but two batsman had managed through the season, were crumbling to 148 all out in their first ever Ranji Trophy final. Around 2000 km away at Dharamsala, Pujara was having a hit at the team India nets. A day later, his helplessness would have grown more acute for its source was closer at hand.
It was widely expected that Pujara would be handed his debut in the final ODI of the series on Sunday. Even overlooking the fact that a dead rubber is probably the most sanctioned time to chop and change things, a track that was clearly going to assist the seamers made a fairly pressing case in itself for the inclusion of a batsman whose reputation has been fixed, fairly or unfairly, as a Test bat of considerable solidity. For the second day in a row, Pujara sat watching as his side failed miserably against the moving ball.
Rohit Sharma chased a pitched up Tim Bresnan out-swinger into James Tredwell's hands at second slip in the fourth over of the day. A certain amount of detachment from the proceedings is expected of a batsman who is about to walk in, but Virat Kohli was clearly paying no attention to what had gone before. Bresnan dished out the same away-floater to the new batsman first ball and Kohli's flay too headed straight to Tredwell.
Pujara must have watched on as Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, one of whom he could possibly have replaced, make abject attempts at coping with the moving ball. Yuvraj closed the face too early off Steve Finn and was out for a three-ball duck and Raina, for most of his innings, lived on the edge. He took the first ball he faced flush on his left pectoral, neither ducking nor swaying out of the way of a Finn bouncer. He survived a leg before appeal on his second ball. The fifth ball, spooned straight back at Finn, dropped just short. The next ball, Raina flicked Finn through the hands of leg slip. Seven balls later, Tredwell dropped him at second slip. Later, Raina had the umpire to thank for surviving a really close leg before shout against Joe Root and that wasn't the end of it. Alastair Cook put him down later. But in typically enterprising fashion, Raina retained his equanimity during all this to smack a 90-ball 83.
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