Cheteshwar Pujara produced one masterclass of an effort as his 123 helped India to some sort of a decent score with 250/9 at the Adelaide Oval in the first Test against Australia on Thursday.
In an age of flashy drives and lofted shots, Pujara’s innings stands as a true example of how the conventional form of resistance is the best way to succeed as his innings arrested the slump for India to some extent.
Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat first in the scorching condition at the Adelaide Oval but his plans of putting a big total on the board terribly backfired when both openers-KL Rahul and Murali Vijay fell cheaply with scores of 2 and 11 respectively.
In came Kohli, carrying the burden of lifting the team from a spot of bother once again but his innings too was cut short by a stunner of a catch at slip by Usman Khawaja, whose outstretched left-hand held on to the ball. The Aussies knew that they’ve got their man and polishing off the rest of the batting would be a mere obligation.
To some extent their belief was right. With the number one ranked reeling in front at 19/3, the Australians couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to a contest where they began as the less-favoured side, particularly because of the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.
Deputy Ajinkya Rahane then stitched a brief 22-run stand to help India build a platform for a fightback but he became Josh Hazlewood’s second victim in the game after Rahul, when he induced an edge off Rahane’s bat to once again peg the Indians back.
Rohit Sharma, picked ahead of Hanuma Vihari in the playing XI would curse himself for the way he was dismissed. Having got the opportunity to make a mark in the whites, he negated the threat carefully with a mixture of patience and aggression and was well set with 37 of 60 balls. He even hit three sixes and two fours during his stay at the crease and just when the ODI vice-captain thought he would make it big, he heaved a deliberately-bowled short delivery from off-spinner Nathan Lyon and was caught in the deep by debutant Marcus Harris.
With the Indians looking down the barrel at 86/5, Rishabh Pant then came out to the crease and while his innings too promised of something big, it didn’t yield the desired outcome.
When all the other batsmen were biting the dust at the other end, Pujara stood tall at the other, carefully countering the threat and building his innings, like the way he does. He consumed 246 balls for his 123 which was studded with seven fours and two sixes and was an example of how the others in the line-up should have batted.
But his dismissal would have been a huge relief for the hosts who would look to wrap up the Indian innings as quickly possible on the second day.
For Australia, the pace troika of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were on the mark as they shared six wickets between them. Lyon also bagged a couple of wickets.
Brief scores: India 250/9 (Cheteshwar Pujara 123, Rohit Sharma 37; Cummins 2/49) vs Australia.