Ahmedabad: Cheteshwar Pujara showed immense concentration and skill to notch up his maiden Test double century as India put themselves in the driver's seat in the first Test by posting a mammoth first innings total and then compounded England's misery with three early jolts.
The 24-year-old Pujara scored an unbeaten 206 and batted for close to nine hours before the hosts declared the first innings at 521 for eight shortly after the tea break on the second day and then reduced the visitors to a precarious 41 for three at stumps.
Captain Alastair Cook (22) and Kevin Pietersen (6) were the two unbeaten batsmen at close with England still needing 281 runs to avoid the follow. Nick Compton (9), James Anderson (2) and Jonathan Trott (0) are the three batsmen back in the pavilion on a Sardar Patel track which has already started taking turn.
It was Pujara who hogged the limelight as he not only recorded his second Test century in his sixth match but showed his class with some glorious shots on both sides of the wicket. The left-handed Yuvraj Singh, playing his first Test since recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, was the other notable performer with a fluent 74 while captain Mahendra Simgh Dhoni (5) and R Ashwin (23) and Zaheer Khan (7) could not hang around for long.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann was the pick of the English bowlers with figures of 51-8-144-5, recording his 14th five wicket haul in an innings. Pujara became only the sixth Indian batsman to hit a double century against England. He joined the list of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Vinod Kambli and Rahul Dravid.
Pujara batted for a marathon 513 minutes, faced 389 balls and struck 21 fours during his epic unbeaten knock which served as the foundation for India's monumental total. Off-spinner R Ashwin, who opened the bowling, scalped two wickets and in the process became the fastest Indian to claim 50 Test wickets in his ninth Test, eclipsing Anil Kumble's record of achieving the feat in his tenth match.
Speaking to the media later, Pujara, said missing out on a hundred against the same opposition in the warm-up-game inspired him to score big in the first Test. "I got out for 87 in the practice match (for Mumbai 'A' before the series). That inspired me to score a hundred and then a double hundred," said Pujara.
He has taken the crucial number three spot vacated by Rahul Dravid, who retired from international cricket in March this year, and the Saurashtra batsman said it brings a lot of responsibility with it. "It's always important to bat up the order. Batting at number three is a huge responsibility.You are most of the time facing the new ball," he said.
Pujara said he was comfortable against all the opposition bowlers on the slow-paced, low bounce track of the Sardar Patel Stadium. "I faced all the bowlers except (Graeme) Swann in that game. I was watchful for a few overs against him and then I was comfortable against all the bowlers," said Pujara.
Pujara also informed that he received a congratulatory message from Dravid hailing his performance. "I got a message from Dravid congratulating me." Pujara said that India were always targeting a score in excess of 500 and with England's three wickets down already, their batting looks 'fragile' on a turning track.