A masterful innings of 123 from Cheteshwar Pujara helped India out of a hole, as they finished Day 1 of the first test at Adelaide on 250/9 after having been reduced to 41/4 earlier in the day.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, the visitors were rocked early as the out of form Lokesh Rahul was caught at slip by Aaron Finch off the bowling Josh Hazlewood for just 2 runs.
Hazlewood’s opening partner Mitchell Starc joined in the act as well, getting rid of Murali Vijay for 11. Vijay, like Rahul, went for an expansive drive and was caught behind the wicket.
An outstanding one handed catch by Usman Khawaja saw Indian skipper Virat Kohli walk back to the pavillion for just 3, leaving the visitors reeling at 19/3.
Pujara and vice captain Ajinkya Rahane put on 22 runs for the fourth wicket before Rahane was dismissed for 13. Like the openers and Kohli before him, Rahane attempted to drive when there was no need to, and became Hazlewood’s second victim. The 30 year old had been dropped on 2 but failed to make use of the reprieve.
India chose Rohit Sharma at 6 instead of Hanuma Vihari and the MI star played some delightful shots, including one exquisite hit over cover for six, before he fell to Nathan Lyon.
Sharma’s test temperament has often been questioned and the manner of his dismissal here will only add to those questions. He had hit Nathan Lyon for a six off the previous delivery, but had narrowly escaped being dismissed after Marcus Harris crossed the rope while attempting to take the catch. In what can only be described as a brainfade, Rohit went for the same shot next ball in his attempt to dominate Lyon, and this time, Harris was safely under it as India slumped to 86/5.
Rishabh Pant joined in and looked in a spot of bother against Starc intially. He managed to get himself to 25 before nicking Lyon to Australian wicketkeeper Tim Paine, leaving India wobbling at 127/6.
Ravi Ashwin along with Pujara batted calmly and added a valuable 62 run stand for the seventh wicket before Pat Cummins struck, getting Ashwin caught in the slips.
Ishant Sharma was castled by Starc for 4 after Australia took the new ball. Sensing that he was running out of partners, Pujara stepped on the accelerator. He completed a fine century and also reached the landmark of 5,000 test runs, coincidentally in the same number of test as Rahul Dravid, the legendary player who the Saurashtra batsman has often been compared to.
In the penultimate ball of the 88th over, Pujara went for a single in an attempt to keep strike for the next over. However Pat Cummins, who had effectively bowled 20 overs in the heat, produced a moment of absolute brilliance to get him run out. It was probably the only way Pujara could’ve been dismissed, and with that, stumps were called, with India at 250/9.
Pujara’s 40 run stand with Mohammad Shami, who remained unbeaten on 6, could prove to be vital in the context of the game. India would’ve definitely taken 250 after being 41/4 in the opening session, and Pujara’s given them a fighting chance going into the second day.
All 3 of Australia’s pace bowlers claimed 2 wickets apiece as did off spinner Nathon Lyon.
India Stumps on Day 1 at 250/9. (Cheteshwar Pujara 123, Rohit Sharma 37) Pat Cummins 2/49