When Cheteshwar Pujara commenced his knock on Friday, the penultimate day of the final unofficial Test against West Indies A in Hubli, the 25-year-old Saurashtra right-hander was already on 139. Through the day, Pujara continued to provide a sense of calm in his measured manner with a belligerent burst later.
He started the morning serenely; a mini-drama came at the stroke of lunch when he survived a dropped catch before he provided a spurt of entertainment in the afternoon. One thing Pujara has been used to since his youth is scoring triple-hundreds, having crossed the 300-run mark at all age-group levels before replicating the feat twice in the Ranji Trophy. As he progressed past the 200-run mark in customarily steady fashion, there was almost a sense of inevitability that there was another one coming. And Pujara duly completed his third triple, becoming only the ninth batsman in first-class history to complete the feat, the list including the likes of Don Bradman, WG Grace, Wally Hammond and his state-mate Ravindra Jadeja.
It was really Pujaraís incredible change of tempo though, as India A began losing wickets, that was the story of third dayís play. The first 235 runs of his innings came in the most pristine of fashion. He was reprieved on 198 on the stroke of lunch, when Ashley Nurse dropped a straightforward catch at slip off the bowling of Miguel Cummings. And there were a couple of nervous moments as he approached his double-hundred.
On either side, Pujaraís innings was laced with fluent strokes on both sides of the wicket, off front and back foot. He used his feet against Nurse and Nikita Miller to great effect every time they gave the ball even a semblance of air, off-driving and on-driving the spinners towards the straight boundaries.
His defence remained as steadfast as ever, however, with the West Indies A bowlers failing to find the elusive chink in his armour. Any width from pacers Delorn Johnson or Cummings was punished past either side of point, his bat coming down on the ball like a rapier with every one of his trademark cut