GenNext kid shows how it is done in the old masters’ style
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For the third time on Friday, Cheteshwar Pujara reached a milestone with a single. When he reached the bowler's end this time, he pulled off his helmet with a little extra urgency. Where he had acknowledged the hundred and the 150 with a smile, a look to the sky and a halfway-raised bat, he marked the 200 by swinging his bat through an arc somewhat similar to a bottom-handed shovel over mid-off's head.
Pujara had been at the crease for close to nine and a half hours then, and hadn't played a single bottom-handed shovel over anyone's head. He might be 24, and part of a generation that has mastered that kind of shot, but bats like someone from another era.
Not that he is dull to watch; far from it. Pujara can attack when he needs to, as he did at the start of his innings on day one, using his feet magnificently to go forward and back to Graeme Swann and drive and cut against the turn to ensure that he didn't let the off-spinner get on top of him.
But on day two, with the hard work done and the field spread out, Pujara's task was to stay at the wicket, enlarge India's total and tire the England bowlers and fielders as much as possible. He ticked all those boxes, and stayed unbeaten on 206 when India declared at 521 for 8.
When Pujara had to defend, he defended. When the bad balls came, he put them away.
There was no extravagance, whether in shot selection — he didn't score a single boundary through the off side after reaching his hundred — or in flourishes of style. Some of his shots were very easy on the eye — such as a whippy straight drive off Swann just after reaching his hundred — while some, while effective, were ungainly. When the spinners bowled short, for instance, he swung his body through the pull in a manner reminiscent of grainy black and white footage from the 40s.
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