By Chetan Narula
Johannesburg: Dec 22, 2013
Chasing a huge 458 for a victory, the Proteas finished the fourth and penultimate day today at 138 for two, still needing 320 runs for a win with eight wickets in hand though injured Morne Morkel may not bat.
“We are happy with the two wickets we have got and the way they have come. The conditions will be a little more difficult tomorrow. We have got enough runs on board. But it’s important for us to get a few wickets in the first session so that we can capitalise later on,” Pujara said at the press conference after the day’s play.
“The wicket has variable bounce and we have seen cracks opening up. We are expecting that we will get more movement tomorrow from the ball that will hit the cracks. Even while I was batting in the morning I felt that the odd ball was going up and down,” said Pujara.
Pujara scored 153 in the second innings to help India reach 421 all out and set up the stiff target for the world’s number one Test side. He was run-out in first innings for 25.
“I was batting well in the first innings [when I was run out]. I knew the start was important. Initially [in second innings], I was trying to look through the conditions as the ball was new and was doing a bit. I was patient and waited for the opportunity to accelerate.
“I was trying to play the ball as late as possible trying to watch the ball till it hit the bat so that whenever there was variable bounce, I could play accordingly. So, it was important to see through the new ball and then play my shorts,” he said.
This was the fourth time in 16 Tests that Pujara has crossed the 150-run mark and he said every such big score only improved his concentration and technique.
“Whenever I score big runs that improves my concentration and patience. Whether it is a domestic game or international game, it helps to improve technique and mind set as well.
Those double hundreds and other big knocks [in domestic cricket] helped me to boost my confidence,” said Pujara, who dedicated his century to his father who celebrated his birthday on Saturday.
In doing so, he added 222 runs for the third wicket with Virat Kohli, who scored 96 runs after a century in the first innings. Perhaps the Indian batsmen have also answered the scarred comments from the South African bowlers while at it.
“I think we have. There were a lot of talk about this tour, especially the Indian batsmen not doing well overseas but everybody took the responsibility and did it as a unit. It was an important innings for me as well because I wanted to score runs in SA, considering the conditions here a little difficult,” he said.
“But I think it is still early and we need to do a lot. It is a very good start for us considering the position we are in. So, we just have to take confidence from it and look to gain from whatever we have achieved in this match and carry forward from this.”
Talking about Kohli, he said, “We have played many innings together and the communication between us is also very good. We have got a very good rapport because we are of the same age and whenever we want to pass on information or chat about something it becomes easier.”
In the end, it’s about the 90 overs on Sunday and India would be looking to defend their unbeaten record against South Africa at Johannesburg.
“Because of the variable bounce it’s tougher to face pace bowlers than spinners and we have to bowl as a unit and spinners have to hold from one end and fast bowlers can do the damage from the other end. You never know as tomorrow being the last day, the wicket might slow down and we get some more turn. I think fast bowlers can do more damage,” Pujara said.
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