Hardik Pandya’s innings on Saturday drew a lot of praise from the cricketing fraternity for the way he batted and rescued India in the ongoing first Test against South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town.Pandya defied the odds to smash runs all over the park on a pitch where top Indian batsmen struggled to score runs. Pandya struck a 93 off just 95 balls on the second day an innings studded with 14 fours and a six.WATCH: HARDIK PANDYA’S WHIRLWIND KNOCKHis valiant effort helped India score 209 in reply to South Africa’s 286, who took a crucial 77-run first innings lead.”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,” Cheteshwar Pujara said after the day’s play.Pandya came out all guns blazing and played his own game attacking the South Africa pace battery, which had ripped apart the Indian batting line-up and left the visitors reeling at 76/5.He was also involved in a crucial 99-run stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25 off 86 balls) for the eighth wicket which helped the visitors cut down the first innings deficit.”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.advertisement”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.Pujara also said that Pandya was just playing his natural game and would bat like this in any situation.”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,” Pujara quipped.The 24-year-old was also the pick of the bowlers for India in the final session as he removed openers Dean Elgar (25) and Aiden Markram (34) in quick succession after top-scoring with the bat.South Africa ended the day’s play at 65 for 2 with a lead of 142 runs. Hashim Amla (4*) and Kagiso Rabada (2*) will resume the batting on Day 3.