Bangalore: The Young Turks are rocking and how! The new generation is sending a message which is loud and clear. That they are not going to flinch from the challenge to fill in the boots of the stalwarts who captivated us for the last decade and half.
If it was the boy-next-door Cheteshwar Pujara, coming in at No. 3 vacated by the retired Rahul Dravid, hitting a majestic hundred against New Zealand in the first Test in Hyderabad, the second day of the final Test, here on Saturday, saw the brash Virat Kohli making it count at a position which till the other day was VVS Laxman’s very own.
Coming in at a time when India were precariously placed at 80 for four, Virat steadied the listing ship with a brilliant unbeaten 93. At stumps, the hosts were 283 for five and giving the Delhi boy company is captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, unbeaten on 46.
Though India trail New Zealand by 82 runs, one can say that if the duo can see off the first session on Sunday, the new ball is due, India will surely be in the driving seat.
Saturday was not just about Virat. Another youngster, Suresh Raina, also had a point to prove and he did that in style, taking the fight to the opposition camp. Things were not looking too rosy for the hosts when Raina walked in. It was a litmus test for him as questions were raised over his place in the squad. And he played a cracker of an innings (55) which went a long way in reviving the Indian innings.
With the New Zealand bowlers threatening to run through the Indian order, Kohli and Raina showed enough guts and gumption. The 99-run partnership took the battle to the opposition camp.
While Raina’s innings was more about flamboyance and determination, Kohli’s was all concentration, composure and confidence.
Raina went into the offensive from the outset. Besides hitting Doug Bracewell for three boundaries, his six over extra cover off the bowling of Jeetan Patel delighted the20,000-odd crowd.
Kohli, on the other hand, mixed caution with aggression. Undeterred by the circumstances, he punished the New Zealand bowlers whenever they wavered in their line. His 174-ball innings was a classic example of temperament and tenacity.
His flicks off Trent Boult, the straight drives off Tim Southee were a treat to watch. The best was when he danced down the track to hit Patel for a six over the midwicket region.
While Kohli played a chanceless innings, Raina was lucky after being stumped off a Jeetan Patel no-ball. But then that was just a minor blip.
The left-hander though missed out on a big score as he was caught behind trying to glance Southee. Interestingly in the last Test also Raina was dismissed in a similar fashion.
Dhoni made his intentions clear by hitting Patel for two sixes. He continued in his aggressive mode to strike an unbeaten 104-run partnership for the sixth wicket and to help India to a fighting total after New Zealand enjoyed the advantage in the early part of the day.
Courtesy Pragyan Ojha’s five-wicket haul, which he later dedicated to Laxman, the visitors were dismissed within 44 minutes. But their bowlers came hard on the Indians, taking full advantage of the overcast conditions.
The Indian openers — Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag — started tentatively, surviving a few close calls.
Gambhir got a reprieve when Brendon McCullum dropped him at the third slip off the bowling of Trent Boult.
The visitors continued to bowl a probing line, and reaped the rewards in the next over. After bowling three away going deliveries, Southee got one to come into Gambhir. The left-hander, thinking the ball will move away, fell for the bait only to find the ball clipping the bail.
The intelligent planning of the visitors saw them scalp another wicket in the form of Cheteshwar Pujara.
The centurion in the first Test had scored a lot of runs by playing the hook shot to good effect. This time around though he mistimed a hook to hole out in the fine-leg region.
Sehwag, on the other hand, lived dangerously, as edges flew between slips and gully on two occasions.
However, for a natural strokemaker like Sehwag, it didn’t take much time to find his rhythm. Two consecutive fours, both brilliantly hit off the bowling of Boult, through the off-side showed that the man had finally got the measure of things.
As in the past, Sehwag threw his wicket away after settling down well. He gave a catch to Daniel Flynn, who was strategically placed between square leg and midwicket.
Sachin Tendulkar, who was patient all this while, started to crank up the gears. But before he could make himself more comfortable, Bracewell castled him, the ball going through the gate.
But then Saturday was not about the top order. It was all about the new order that is taking shape.
Play starts at 9.27 am.