Gritty Pujara gives Rohit a lesson

Cheteshwar Pujara (C) survives a run-out attempt as Australia's Peter Handscomb (2nd L) looks on during day one of the first cricket Test match at the Adelaide Oval on December 6. AFP

One bats like a millionaire, all big gestures and largesse. The other, like a middle-class workman squirrelling away runs as if they would pay for his kids’ education.

Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara could not be more different, even if they are united by the perennial selection sword hanging over their heads.

At the end of day one of the Adelaide Test, no one was in any doubt about who had shored up his position — and the side’s — and who had frittered away another opportunity.

Rohit (37, 61b, 2x4, 3x6) perished to a shot that was as ugly as his cameo was attractive. And Pujara fought his way to a century (123, 246b, 7x4, 2x6) that formed the bedrock of India’s fighting total of 250, even if he did manage to add another run-out to his already bulging kitty of embarrassing dismissals.

Rohit was returning to the Indian side after a gap of 11 months, preferred to Hanuma Vihari despite the Andhra batsman’s fifty in his last Test innings, on the horrendous England tour. For a while it seemed like the right decision, as Rohit batted as only he can, all timing and grace, and not a care in the world despite the score reading 41/4.

But like so often in the past, he got dismissed while coasting along, attempting a shot that was neither on nor required. Only the previous ball he had barely managed to survive after Marcus Harris had failed to stay within the square leg boundary while holding on to a slog sweep off Lyon. A batsman of Rohit’s experience and stature should have known better than to repeat the shot, and that too, the very next ball. A clever Lyon had pulled back his length and an advancing Rohit found himself reaching for the ball. The miscued hit was comfortably caught by the same fielder well inside the boundary.

Pujara chugged on, balancing survival with judicious strokeplay as India teetered at 86/5. He finally indulged himself with a six (top-edged) and a boundary in his nineties.

“Pujara batted a lot of time, he’s someone who likes to absorb pressure and bat a long time, and credit to him he scored a fantastic hundred today,” said Australian pacer Mitchell Starc.

The millionaire will rue another wasted day, while the middle-class man will go to sleep pleasantly tired.

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