Cheteshwar Pujara showed varying levels of batting discipline on the first day of the opening Test against Australia. He was patient when the ball was doing plenty in the morning session and wickets were falling, and later picked up the pace with the tail. Pujara didn’t score a run for 55 minutes while he was partnering Rohit Sharma, but then boosted the run rate while battling with the tailenders. His century – and eventual score of 123 runs from 246 balls – bore similarities with his knock earlier in the year in Southampton.
There it is, a brilliant ton for Cheteshwar Pujara from 231 balls!
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) 6 December 2018
Much like the knock against England, Pujara patiently collected each run – even as his teammates fell by the way side – before upping the ante with the lower order. He played a key factor again, taking India from 19/3 at one stage to 143/6 at Tea. He then took command and India accelerated to 250/9 at stumps. Rather fittingly, the only way one could stop him was with sheer brilliance and that is exactly what Pat Cummins managed with just one stump to aim at, finding Pujara a yard short at the non-striker’s end. That, as it turned out, was the final act of the day which otherwise went Australia’s way.
Other highlights of the day were a combination of dreadful shots by the Indian top order – who were guilty of doing a poor job with their drives – and Australia’s efficiency in the field that did not let any chance go begging.
Pujara strung together two crucial partnerships with lower-order batsmen to ensure India give their bowlers something to bowl at. After Tea, Pujara added 62 runs with R Ashwin (25) for the seventh wicket. Ashwin played watchfully, unlike the Indian top-order who were guilty of squandering their wickets to pitiful shots, and played a major role in India’s recovery. Cummins (2/49) finally got the breakthrough in the 74th over when Ashwin edged to second slip. Ishant Sharma (4) then put on 21 runs with Pujara take the score past 200 in the 79th over.
Pujara and Rohit Sharma also had a decent partnership going before the latter, who was picked instead of Hanuma Vihari, threw his wicket away. Even though Rohit raked in the applause for some clean hitting – two sixes off Cummins with one over cover being the highlight of the day – he was later guilty of a miserable stroke that ended his strong start. After the ball was almost caught on the boundary by Marcus Harris off Nathan Lyon, Rohit went for an almost similar stroke again, but this time got a top edge. Harris ran in from the boundary to take a comfortable catch.
Rishabh Pant (25) too arrived with intention of attacking. He scored two fours and a six in the space of a few deliveries, before being asked by Pujara to play more steadily. They then added 41 runs for the sixth wicket. But attempting to play against his natural game, Pant edged one behind off Lyon to be dismissed shortly before tea.
The morning session was all Australia with India going into Lunch at 56/4. Starc and Josh Hazlewood got the Test underway and were on the mark from the word go. Hazlewood struck in his opening over to send KL Rahul back after scoring just 2. Starc had Murali Vijay walking soon after with yet another attempted extravagant drive.
Kohli was in the middle earlier than he would have anticipated. He looked more confident than the openers but was stopped in his tracks by a stunning Usman Khawaja catch at gully. The Aussie struck out his left hand and held on after Kohli’s uppishly played drive off Cummins. The worst of the dismissals may well be that of Ajinkya Rahane, who reached out to a delivery well outside off and was caught at second slip.
Tail-ender Mohammed Shami survived to stumps on six runs, with Jasprit Bumrah the last batsman to resume on day two.
(With PTI inputs)