When Rahul Dravid retired in 2011, there was a question in everyone’s mind about who could replace ‘The Wall’ in Test cricket. Cheteshwar Pujara had just arrived at the International arena. The Saurashtra batsman had showcased his talent but wasn’t considered a long-term option in the longer format. Slowly the 35-year-old worked hard on his technique and began scoring runs not only in domestic cricket but also in International cricket.
The right-hander has since been the rock of the Indian middle order in Test cricket. Although he had his challenges with injuries and poor form, Pujara worked hard to get his act together and kept on scoring runs. Whether it was performing in overcast conditions like in England or on wickets of Australia and South Africa where there is extra bounce, Pujara has played some magnificent innings, even winning Test matches single-handedly. Recently, the Indian batsman became the 13th Indian cricketer to play 100 Tests.
One of the biggest features of his batting is his ability to adjust his shot selection and defense depending on the nature of the wicket. This piece looks at the five best Innings of the right-hander, which looked a class apart.
#5 153 vs South Africa (Johannesburg, December 2013)
India managed to gain a lead of 36 runs in the first innings. In the second innings, India scored 421 runs thanks to a brilliant 153 off 270 balls from Cheteshwar Pujara. South African pacers bowled a tight line, but Pujara showcased brilliant technique and played delightful strokes on both sides of the wicket.
The right-hander’s placement looked spot on, and Virat Kohli ably supported him from the other end. The match was drawn thanks to Pujara’s fine innings.
#4 202 vs Australia (Ranchi, March 2017)
The series was tied at 1-1 as both teams competed well. In the first innings, Australia scored 451, with Steve Smith scoring 178 and Glenn Maxwell scoring 104. India scored 603 thanks to a brilliant 202 in 525 balls from Pujara.
The right-hander played spin well and made some wonderful drives on a wicket that initially aided pacers. The Saurashtra born scored runs on the leg side with classic wrist work. The match ended in a draw. Pujara batted with tremendous patience. The right-hander was tested by short deliveries by the Australian pacers, but Pujara showcased dogged determination.
Bonus Read: Most 200s for India in Test Cricket
#3 132 vs England (Southampton, August 2018)
England was bowled out for 246 in the first innings of the 4th Test. When Pujara came out to bat in the first innings, conditions were difficult for batting, but the right-hander negotiated swing well against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Ben Stokes.
Although India lost the match by 60 runs, Pujara’s inning was like a silver lining in tough batting conditions. The 35-year-old played the ball late as the wicket aided bounce and punched the ball in the gaps rather than hitting in the air. He scored 132 in 257 balls, comprising 16 fours.
Bonus Read: Top 10: Most Runs for India in Test Cricket
#2 123 vs Australia (Adelaide, December 2018)
Pujara has always showcased a rock-solid temperament during pressure situations, and this particular inning was no different. The right-hander was a tough character, and playing with such mental toughness in Australian conditions shows the class of this match-winner.
At one stage, India was 19/3, but Pujara stood like a rock at one end and stabilised the Indian inning with calmness and patience. The ball was coming quickly onto the bat, so Pujara tried to play grounded shots and played the ball as straight as possible. He used the uppercut when the Aussie bowlers bowled short outside the off stump.
#1 206 vs England (Ahmedabad, November 2012)
This particular innings, which is Pujara’s highest ever Test score, highlighted Pujara’s temperament to stay at the crease longer. The right-hander played some elegant-looking drives and effortless front-foot punches.
Pujara showcased fine footwork against spinners Graeme Swann and Samit Patel. The wicket aided the spinners initially, but Pujara played the ball late by adjusting his footwork. He scored 206 in 389 balls, including 21 fours. India won the match by 9 wickets.