India came out to bat on day five with the score reading 35-3. They had already lost Virat Kohli, the centurion of the first innings. If there was any hope for India to get over the line (or save the Test match), it lay squarely on the able shoulders of Cheteshwar Pujara.
The expectations were all grounded on several slender links – all of which had to click at the same time, if India were to deny the Proteas a victory.
1. If Pujara and Patel can occupy the crease till lunch.
2. If the pitch doesn’t misbehave.
3. If Rohit gets back to his scoring ways.
4. If Pandya replicates his heroics in the first Test.
5. If the tail wags a little more.
6. Above all, if fortune favours us.
If all these ‘ifs’ had clicked, all at once, India were certainly in with a chance.
On the contrary, the first wicket India lost opened the floodgates. It came in the form of a run out. Who would have imagined that Cheteshwar Pujara, the most perseverant of all Indian batsmen, would get run out twice in the match. But, such is the phase that the Indian team is going through, that nothing seems to be going their way.
Pujara was seeing the ball well in the morning session. He made his positive intentions known to the Proteas when he late-cut an outswinger from Philander for a boundary. On other days, he would probably have let the ball pass and deposit safely in the keeper’s gloves. But Pujara looked determined to take the attack to the opposition in this innings.
A few balls later, Parthiv Patel got a steeply-rising delivery from Vernon Philander. He got on top of the ball and guided it to third man. The debutant pacer Ngidi gave the ball a chase while AB de Villiers backed him up. He was somehow successful in flicking the ball towards de Villiers who threw the ball towards the keeper (de Kock) in a flash.
It is known to all and sundry that Pujara is not the quickest between the wickets. In fact, he is probably only better than Ishant Sharma in the current Indian side, when it comes to fitness and agility. He has already had a couple of surgeries on his knee. However, when he suddenly decided to go for the third run, he seemed to forget all of that.
There was a certain three there, but, for the sake of his fitness, Pujara could have just done with a couple. He ran with all his might, but even his full pace was not good enough for him to make it to the crease on time. Quinton de Kock dislodged the bails. The decision was referred.
(Watch the video here.)
At first sight, it appeared to be an open-and-shut case. The wickets were broken, and no part of Pujara’s bat was behind the line. This meant an end to the innings of the gritty right-hander. But, the TV umpire Richard Kettleborough took longer than usual to give his decision.
The fact of the matter is that for a batsman to be ruled out, the bails must be completely dislodged. In this case, the bail on the off stump was out of the groove, but some part of it still remained perched on the middle stump. Kettleborough took his time, and once he was sure that the bail was fully dislodged, he ruled Pujara out.
After a long wait, Pujara had to eventually depart – and with him departed India’s hopes of showcasing a fightback.
A quick analysis of Cheteshwar Pujara’s run outs in the second Test: