Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara praised all-rounder Hardik Pandya for showing great character and helping India stay afloat in the first Test against South Africa at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town. Pandya's all-round show (93 runs and 2/17) gave India some hope despite a 142-run lead currently enjoyed by the home team.
"Everyone believed he (Pandya) can play such an innings and he played his shots and the environment in the dressing room became quite positive. Those runs were very important for the team and they kept us in the game," said Pujara.
"If he hadn't scored those runs, we would have been in trouble. So I think he kept us in the game and got us two wickets also at the end of day's play. So his performance was outstanding," Pujara added.
What Pujara liked about Pandya's innings was the character shown by him.
"He batted really well and showed a lot of character. He hasn't played many Test matches away from home but this is the kind of innings (he played) we expected it from him if he played in the playing XI.
"I think if someone who is very promising, he is batting well, bowling well, it makes a lot of difference to the team because when you have a very good all-rounder, it balances your team combination. I hope he continues with this," said Pujara.
"It was a case of him playing his natural game. He is someone who likes to play his shots. That's how he would bat in any situation. This was the ideal situation for him to express himself and the moment he tries playing his shots he has been successful.
"We have seen that against Sri Lanka as well. When he started playing his shots he was a different player altogether. That's how he should be playing and this is what makes him a different player from a top order batsman," he added.
Pujara feels that a target of 350 can be chased on Newlands track.
"Overall, I think we played well today and we are very much in the game. We got two wickets today and if we bowl well tomorrow, and if we are chasing somewhere around 350, I think, we are very much in the game," he signed off.
(With PTI inputs)