SA v IND 2018: Cheteshwar Pujara hails Hardik Pandya for his wonderful counter attacking innings

Hardik Pandya's 93 took India to over 200, from 92/7.

Hardik Pandya with Bhuvneshwar Kumar | AFP

If India is in the game and fighting for a victory despite losing more than half of the side under 100, it is only because of all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

His heroic 93 helped India to minimize the South African lead as much as possible. At one stage, it was looking impossible for India to even reach 150. But thanks to a 99 runs partnership between Hardik and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, they are now in a much better situation than what everyone expected after the top order collapse.

Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara lauded the all-rounder for his fight back. 

"He batted really well and showed a lot of character. He hasn't played many Test matches away from home but this is the kind of innings (he played) we expected it from him if he played in the playing XI. I think if someone who is very promising, he is batting well, bowling well, it makes a lot of difference to the team because when you have a very good all-rounder, it balances your team combination. I hope he continues with this," said Pujara.

"Everyone believed he (Pandya) can play such an innings and he played his shots and the environment in the dressing room became quite positive. Those runs were very important for the team and they kept us in the game," he added.

"If he hadn't scored those runs, we would have been in trouble. So I think he kept us in the game and got us two wickets also at the end of day's play. So his performance was outstanding," 

"It was a case of him playing his natural game. He is someone who likes to play his shots. That's how he would bat in any situation. This was the ideal situation for him to express himself and the moment he tries playing his shots he has been successful. We have seen that against Sri Lanka as well. When he started playing his shots he was a different player altogether. That's how he should be playing and this is what makes him a different player from a top-order batsman," Pujara said, talking about Pandya's innings.

The first session was said to be very vital for Indian team on Day 2. They tackled it really well and lost only one wicket of Rohit Sharma. Pujara said that they were trying to build a partnership, while looking to counter-attack. But South African bowling attack didn't give any loose deliveries to break the shackles. 

"They bowled in the right areas obviously, but at the same time, we knew what we wanted to do. We almost got that I think. Rohit got out but otherwise, we were trying to build a partnership and we almost got it. So, overall in the first session, we lost just one wicket and we did bat well today," said Pujara.

"The minus point was losing three wickets yesterday, that's where I think we should have batted better. To be honest, I should have left the ball (after tea) alone. It was outside the off-stump. I made a mistake and got out. It deviated a little more than what I expected but at the same time I made the mistake and I had to pay the price for it," he added.

South African bowlers were spitting venom and Pujara admitted that they are one of the best that he has ever faced, "This is one of the best attacks obviously. All of their bowlers have always done well, especially in South Africa. They know which areas to bowl in. When I bat, I don't look at the bowler and the bowling line-up, I try and look at the ball, try and keep it simple. As a batsman, I would want to concentrate on what I would like to do rather than thinking whether they have the best bowlers in the world. It hardly matters if you score runs."

Cheteshwar still thinks they can chase anything up to 350. He said they are very much in the game. 

"Overall, I think we played well today and we are very much in the game. We got two wickets today and if we bowl well tomorrow, and if we are chasing somewhere around 350, I think, we are very much in the game," he said.

"It might deteriorate a bit but at the same time I think there is something in it for the fast bowlers still. We will try and exploit some areas where we know that there will be some seam movement for the fast bowlers. There is a lot of time remaining in this match and that is good because rain is forecast for Sunday, so there is a lot of time to get a result in this match." Pujara talked about the pitch.


By Sihyeu Prakash Singh - 07 Jan, 2018

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