India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has described the Wanderers wicket as one of the toughest he has played on and asserted that his side has enough runs on the board as the pitch would only get tougher to bat on.
Pujara scored a grinding half-century off 179 balls as India were bowled out for 187 runs in their first innings. South Africa finished the day at 6/1.
"I think this is one of the toughest pitches I have played on. It was difficult to score runs especially in the first session. It was difficult to rotate the strike. There was a lot of bounce and seam movement, and there is enough pace now," said Pujara in the media interaction after the close of play.
"So we had to work hard to score runs. On this wicket, you won't be able to bat without getting beaten. I won't say my knock was a struggle. You do get beaten and at the end of the day if you can score a fifty on this pitch, it is a good knock."
Pujara said 187 was a decent first innings total on the seaming surface. "The total we have now, I think it is as good as scoring 300 runs on any wicket. We also got a wicket and if we bowl well we will get them out (cheaply). I would say it was a good day for us."
On a green-top, India opted for an all-seam attack but surprisingly batted first after winning the toss. Pujara took 54 balls to get off the mark after the openers were dismissed early. "After a point obviously yes, I wanted to get off the mark. But as you saw it was a bit difficult to rotate the strike. As I said this is one of the toughest pitches I have played on.
"You need to take your time and get used to the bounce and lateral movement. It was difficult for me early on but as I batted more it became easier for me.
"I wouldn't say it gets much easier (once you get in). I never felt that I was in on this wicket, as I said there was a lot of deviation. When you bat for a bit, things do get easier. But I don't think you can be 'in' on this wicket. If someone scores a hundred, it will be a brilliant knock," he said.
There was a loud cheer when Pujara scored his first run. "Yes you do notice it, because there was a lot of noise from the crowd (laughs). And even personally, obviously I wanted to get off the mark.
"I wasn't seeing the number of balls I was facing, but yes, sometimes when there is a lot of noise you do notice it. Even if you are concentrating, sometimes you hear a voice from the crowd."
When asked if he had extra motivation after two suicidal run-outs in the Centurion Test, Pujara replied, "I was looking good in the last Test. The way I was batting, I felt in. But it was a bit unfortunate that I was run out in both innings.
"That was a tough time. I don't think any cricketer would (want to) get out twice (run out) in one Test. That is something that I'd like to forget and move on. But yes, the way I was batting today, I'm very happy with it."
Virat Kohli was the top-scorer with 54 runs and his innings was in complete contrast to Pujara's knock. The skipper played a counter-attacking game and managed to keep the scoreboard ticking as long as he was at the crease.
"Each and every player is different. Virat is someone who has been batting really well in all formats of the game. He has lots of shots and the way he batted today, I don't think any other batsman could have batted like that.
"He's in form, and he scored a hundred in the last Test match too. He was timing the ball really well.
"I was finding it difficult initially, as I said earlier. For me intent is something where you defend well, you leave well, and you play on the merit of the ball.
"Ultimately, what matters is that you score some runs for the team and put up a decent total," he added, talking about the much-discussed 'intent'.
Talking about the decision to bat first on a tough wicket, the batsman said, "As the game progresses, we are very sure that this wicket will be difficult to bat on. As we saw even in the later stages of today, the cracks are opening up and a couple of balls deviated a lot.
"I mean I haven't seen deviation like that before. As the game progresses, this wicket will have variable bounce and cracks will open up, so it will be difficult to bat on. That's the reason we chose to bat first."
Pujara commended the disciplined Proteas bowling but also added that the Indian bowlers were more than capable of getting the same results. "We always expect them to do that (bowl with discipline). They have good line and length. At the same time on this wicket our bowlers will bowl better lengths because we are used to bowling on such wickets. Our lengths are slightly better on this particular wicket.
"We'll be looking to get them out before 150. And obviously, looking at this total I think the second innings will be very important. Seeing the weather forecast, I think it will be overcast and there will be more help for the fast bowlers, so the first session (tomorrow) will be very crucial for us," he signed off.