Pujara holds out as India struggle in rain-hit Test

Cheteshwar Pujara stood firm against a relentless Sri Lankan pace attack as India stumbled to 74-5 before rain washed out the second day of the first Test before lunch on Friday.

Fast bowler Dasun Shanaka struck twice on a cloudy morning session at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens as the hosts struggled to build on their overnight 17-3.

Pujara, on 47, and wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, on six, were at the crease when rain arrived before lunch, preventing play for the rest of the day.

The continued adverse weather meant only 21 overs were played Friday, after just 11.5 overs were completed the previous day.

Pujara’s overnight partner Ajinkya Rahane became Shanaka’s first victim, caught behind for four after a tentative 21-ball stay at the crease.

Shanaka, playing just his second Test after his debut against England last year, also got Ravichandran Ashwin for four, putting the hosts in trouble at 50-5.

Pujara, starting the day on eight, hit out when he could, finding the boundary nine times during his 102-ball stay so far.

Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas lauded “world class” Pujara for his gritty knock, saying the batsman’s county experience helped him master the seaming conditions.

Pujara, who signed up with English county side Nottinghamshire in May, presents himself as a classical batsman in the age of Twenty20 cricket.

“He is obviously a world class player. That innings just showed you the benefits of him playing county cricket,” Pothas told reporters.

“That is genuinely a wicket that you will find in England April-May. And he certainly played the conditions very well.

“So far we have been pretty pleased of how we have gone about things. It is obviously very very challenging batting conditions … we are hoping things go our way,” the former South African player added.

Meanwhile Suranga Lakmal, who took three wickets in six maiden overs on Thursday, conceded his first runs after 46 balls to return figures of 3-5. His victims on day one included India skipper Virat Kohli.

India’s fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar believes the Indian seamers will also relish bowling in these conditions.

“It was fabulous to see so much of lateral movement and swing Lakmal and his fellow bowlers were purchasing from this wicket,” said Sridhar.

“Hopefully (Mohammed) Shami and ‘Sultan of swing’ Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) would relish the challenge.

“This Test can definitely get a result in 270 overs, should we get that. If the weather clears out, it would be really interesting going by the conditions of this Test,” he said.

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