Patience pays off for Pujara

India

It took nearly 20 years for one of India's premier batsmen to overtake the 148 Rahul Dravid scored in a magnificent innings at the Wanderers, so one can't really blame Cheteshwar Pujara for boasting a broad smile after the 153 he amassed against South Africa at the same venue.

It took nearly 20 years for one of India's premier batsmen to overtake the 148 Rahul Dravid scored in a magnificent innings at the Wanderers, so one can't really blame Cheteshwar Pujara for boasting a broad smile after the 153 he amassed against South Africa at the same venue.

He arrived in the country with a point to prove and would have been devastated after being run-out by fellow centurion Virat Kholi in the first innings.

Pujara, however, wasn't about to lie in a corner crying and instead made it his mission to prove that he can be as successful on foreign soil as he has been in his native India.

His innings was one where a fine balance between defence and attack had to be struck as conditions didn't't always suit an aggressive approach.

Fortunately he is known as an accumulator and in Johannesburg he would build an innings alongside Kohli that would put the South Africans on the back foot.

When play starts on the final day the Proteas still need another 320 runs while they have only eight wickets in hand.

Asked to reflect on his well timed knock Pujara said: "I think initially I was trying to bat through the conditions as the ball was new and was doing a bit. I was being patient and was waiting for the opportunity to accelerate, but I knew the start was important and I was batting well even in the first innings, so it was important to see through the new ball and play my shots."

Making it past the century mark on the third day Pujara celebrated with an exaggerated jump before raising his bat to the standing Indian dressing room.

"There were a lot of talk about this tour, especially the Indian batsmen not doing well overseas, but I think 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 are a little difficult," he added.

Pujara said that, despite the first-innings fiasco, he and Kohli understood each other and that their partnership on the field proved vital throughout the innings.

"We have played many innings together now and the communication is also very good," he noted. "We have got a very good rapport because I think we are of the same age and whenever we want to pass on an information and chat about something it becomes easier."

The 25-year-old would not be pushed into saying his men have the game in the bag, but as a man who just recently spent more than 350 minutes in the middle, he knows that it going to be tough.

"I think we are very happy with the two wickets, we have got and the conditions will be a little more difficult soon. We have got enough runs on the board, and I think it will not be an issue for us. It's important for us to get a few wickets in the first session so that we can capitalise later on," he concluded.

<i>Michael Mentz at the Wanderers</i>

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