India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a patient half-century in tough conditions on the opening day of the third and final Test against South Africa at Johannesburg on Wednesday, said that he was satisfied to get runs on 'one of the toughest pitches he has played on.' Electing to bat first, India were bowled out for 187 but Pujara asserted that it was a competitive first innings total. "It is as good as scoring 300 on a normal pitch. It is certainly one of the toughest pitches I have batted on. It was much tougher than one used for the first Test in Cape Town," Pujara said.
"Overall we batted well. The runs on the board are sufficient and we can bowl them out. There was a lot of deviation and the pitch was initially very slow, but there was enough bounce. There was a lot of lateral movement and a lot of deviation off the cracks."
"Our bowlers are used to bowling good lengths. I am sure they will do the needful tomorrow. It is very difficult to survive on this wicket," Pujara said after scoring 50 off 179 balls.
South Africa had the unpleasant task of playing six overs before close of play. Pacer Bhuveshwar Kumar, brought back into the side, proved his worth by having opener Aiden Markram caught behind with South Africa ending the day at six for one.
Post tea, India lost six for 73 as after Pujara reached his 17th Test half-century off 173 balls.
Pujara added 31 runs with Parthiv Patel (2) for the fifth wicket. They looked to resurrect the Indian innings, before Pujara's long vigil came to an end as he edged behind off Andile Phehlukwayo (2-25).
India lost three wickets for no addition to the score in the space of 12 balls at that juncture. Five balls after Pujara's dismissal, Patel was caught behind off Morne Morkel (2-47).
Phehlukwayo then accounted for Hardik Pandya (0), who didn't look convincing at all during his five-ball stay at the crease. The all-rounder was out caught pulling, with Quinton de Kock taking a fine catch running behind. It was another loose shot from Pandya considering the match situation.
Bhuvneshwar (30 runs, 49 balls, 4 fours) then played a brilliant hand to rescue India from 144 for seven. First, he put on 19 runs with Mohammed Shami (8). Vernon Philander (2-31) and Kagiso Rabada (3-39) accounted for Shami and Ishant Sharma (0) thereafter as India were dangling dangerously at 166 for nine.
In fine rear-guard manner then, Bhuvneshwar added 21 vital runs with Jasprit Bumrah (0 not out) as he gave India something to bowl at. He was the last man out, caught pulling off Rabada.
(With PTI inputs)