Jo’burg pitch ‘one of the toughest I’ve played on’, says Pujara

The top-order batsman believes India’s first-innings total of 187 “is as good as scoring 300 on any wicket.”

Cheteshwar Pujara utilised his early resilience to carve out a valuable half-century.   -  AP

Cheteshwar Pujara consumed 53 balls before scoring his first run here but made his cautious start count with a battling 50 on a lively surface.

However, apart from Pujara (50), Virat Kohli (54) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (30), the rest of the batsmen contributed only 27 runs as India suffered yet another collapse on Day One of the third Test. Pujara, however, looked at the positives. “The total we have (187) is as good as scoring 300 on any wicket. And we got a wicket. I would say it was a good day for us.”

He added, “This pitch is one of the toughest I’ve played on. And as we saw, it was difficult to score some runs. It was difficult to rotate the strike. It has a lot of bounce, has seam movement. And there is enough pace now.”

He noted, “On this wicket you won’t be able to bat without getting beaten. You have to accept it. And at the end of the day if you can score a fifty, it is a good knock.”

On facing so many deliveries before scoring his first run, Pujara said, “After a point I, obviously, wanted to get off the mark. It was difficult for me early on but as I batted more it became easier.” Asked what ‘intent’ meant for him, Pujara replied, “For me intent is something where you defend well, you leave well, and you play on the merit of the ball.”

‘Cracks opening up’

Queried about India batting first, he said, “I think as the game progresses, we are very sure this wicket will be more difficult to bat on. As we saw even in the later stages today, the cracks are opening up and a couple of balls deviated a lot.”

Having gone through the ‘horrors’ in the second Test when he was run-out twice, Pujara said, “Well, it was a bit unfortunate because I was looking really good even in the last Test match. The way I was batting, I felt in. I don’t think any cricketer would want to get run-out out twice in one Test. That is something that I’d like to forget and move on.”

South Africa’s fifth seamer Andile Phehlukwayo, who took out Pujara with some clever bowling, felt the pitch was good. “I think it’s a good wicket. You got to look to score. We bowled really well.”

He added, “The Indian total’s decent but it’s not really par. If you just hang in there and try to get the bowlers to their second and third spells, you can really cash in.”