Cheteshwar Pujara has batted six times in New Zealand in Test cricket. Except once, he has faced more than 40 balls on each occasion. But his tally of runs is a disappointing 82 with a highest score of 23. India's no. 3 batsman averages a pathetic 13.66 in New Zealand, his worst in any country in Test cricket. 

On Sunday at Basin Reserve, the Saurashtra middle-order batsman seemed determined to overturn his record. He took 75 balls to go past single digits and appeared to bat time, a method justified given the size of the lead the Kiwis had built courtesy Kyle Jamieson and Colin de Grandhomme's late show. 

The Kiwis had a whopping lead of 183 in the first innings after their innings. The only instance of a side losing in the country after a 150-plus lead in the first innings was way back in 2003 when New Zealand lost to Pakistan by seven wickets after taking a 170-run lead. 

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In their last 16 home games, New Zealand had won nine and lost just one. They know the conditions on offer and thrive. India had their backs against the wall despite the great start to the day they had with Jasprit Bumrah dismissing the dangerous BJ Watling. The lead was humungous and Prithvi Shaw was dismissed shortly after India started their second innings.

The situation demanded a Pujara blockathon and for 75 balls, he resisted everything the Kiwi bowlers threw at him. The scorecard barely inched forward from his end, but India had ridden through a tricky period. But after an 81-ball vigil, Pujara was dismissed for 11, ending a 51-run partnership that came off 24 overs. It raises a pertinent question that has always surrounded Pujara since Virat Kohli publically questioned his intent in a Test match in South Africa in 2018.

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"We need to have intent because the kind of bowling attack they have - especially on these pitches they get extra bounce and they get extra pace off the wicket - you can't be in a zone of not having intent and see off 35-40 overs. You need to find the perfect balance to do well in South Africa especially where there is more bounce," Kohli had said then without taking Pujara's name. 

In New Zealand, Pujara has his worst strike rate in any country in Tests - a disappointing 26.79. The situation today demanded Pujara to bat time. But does it work for his own good? Pujara's best averages in Tests are in Sri Lanka and India; 90.8 and 59.84 respectively. In these countries, he strikes at rates of 53.03 and 50.61, his best two numbers in any country. 

In fact, his averages and strike rates in different countries are in proper sync. The faster he scores, the better he averages. Given this, was his intent-less approach questionable at Wellington?

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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Marty Melville