As proficient a player of spin bowling as Cheteshwar Pujara is, he has surprisingly found a nemesis in left-arm spinner Jack Leach. In their 89-ball duel in this series, the English spinner has consumed him on four instances. The pattern of dismissals has been unusual as well—twice he was nailed in front with the arm ball and twice he was caught at first slip. Little doubt that Leach is a craftier bowler than his numbers suggest, and some of the pitches have turned substantially, but Pujara’s vulnerability against Leach was utterly unprecedented, almost an anti-narrative.
Wide, low and flat: Though it was his slowest ball of the over (89.7 mph), it skidded to blast his front-pad from a slightly wider angle of release. Usually, when he defends the spinners, the bat is in line with the front pad, or just in front of it. But this time, a touch late to react to the arm-ball, the bat was slightly behind the pad and a trifle angled.
Misjudged the length: With his brisk pace, Leach has restricted Pujara to the crease throughout the series. Unable to shimmy down the track to spinners —the soul of Pujara’s batting against spinners— he has not only been shackled in his game but has also grown more tentative when defending on the front-foot.
Leach has been masterful in keeping him pinned to the crease, primarily due to his low-flung trajectory but released from a higher point (due to his height) than most other spinners around. As ever he looks to go down and plants his left foot forward in readiness, but with the pace-and-trajectory combo, he has had to abort the initial thought and try to adjust in real time, which hasn’t always worked. Invariably, he has lunged forward in the second stride, a stretch that has taken him too far ahead with no chance for his bat to get ahead of the pad.
Spooked by the past: In the previous Test, Leach had him leg before too with the armer. But on that instance, he just missed the variation completely, new as he was to crease and the pink ball was skidding whenever it landed on the leather. But there again, his bat was behind the wall, which is rarely the case when any quality batsman plays a left-arm spinner from around the stumps. The reason could be that he was fearing the outside edge, which Leach had repeatedly quizzed, beaten and twice brushed in this series.
Maybe, it was the ripper in the second innings in the first Test in Chennai that sprinkled doubts in his mind. Since then, he has been loath to play beside the line of the ball – when the left leg doesn’t come too much across, he can avoid the lbw but it increases the chances of the outside edge since he would be playing a touch away from the line