Pujara slams unbeaten 130, India 303/4 after day one

Pujara slams unbeaten 130, India 303/4 after day one

India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara hits a ball on the first day of the fourth and final Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney on January 3, 2019. (AFP Photo)

In the 74th over of India’s innings, Nathan Lyon asked Cheteshwar Pujara, “Aren’t you bored (of batting)?” It was as much an exasperated poser from a helpless off-spinner, who till then had bowled 24 overs for just one wicket in searing conditions, as it was a compliment to Pujara who picked up his third century of the series to ensure India didn’t lose their grip over the match in the face some crucial breakthroughs from the hosts.

Pujara, India’s Mr Consistent on this tour, slammed 18th ton of his career to hold the tourists’ innings together which kept wobbling and stabilising till the final session before settling for a comfortable 303/4 at stumps on the opening day of the fourth and final Test here at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday, attended by over a crowd of 43,000. Pujara remained unbeaten on 130 (250b, 16x4) while an impressive Hanuma Vihari was batting on 39 (58b, 5x4), the duo having added 75 runs off 118 balls for the unbroken fifth wicket.

Lyon has been Australia best bowler in the series so far, and while he has managed to dismiss Pujara a couple of times, it’s not before after the Indian has inflicted enough damage with his persevering but effective style of batting that has fetched him 458 runs from five innings so far. On last count, he had faced 1135 balls, 451 more than the second-placed Virat Kohli. He has spent a whopping 1703 minutes in the crease spread over five innings, wearing down the Aussie attack like few have.   

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It was a good toss to win for Virat Kohli who would have struggled with his limited quick bowling resources on an opening day pitch that seemed to have little in it for the spinners as Tim Paine too would have opted to bat first had he won the toss. The Australian quicks extracted big bounce and often troubled the Indian batsmen with well-directed bouncers. The odd ball kept low as well, indicating India have chosen the best period to bat. A lot will depend on Pujara and Vihari if India hope to take their total anywhere near 400 and put pressure on the inexperienced home batting.    

Before Pujara stole the show, Mayank Agarwal was in the spotlight with his sparkling innings. India went into the match with two spinners -- Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav hoping for the SCG to play true to its nature – and two seamers. Kohli’s gamble with K L Rahul backfired once again as the right-hander departed after facing just six balls. His fellow Bengalurean Agarwal, though, continued to relish the Australian summer as he brought up a delightful 77 (112b, 7x4, 2x6) for his second half-century in as many matches on this trip. After he kept driving the fuller deliveries for fours, Australia cut-short their lengths and bowled at his body to have him in some trouble. He was hit on his helmet and on his fingers while riding the bounce, but he battled the tough period to notch up another impressive innings.

For most part of his innings he looked confident and compact but occasionally carefree. Having slammed Lyon for a six, the 27-year-old repeated the shot the next ball but the bounce was a bit high for him to connect the shot well and clear the long-on. A century was his for the taking, and he should be disappointed with his needless adventure.

Pujara remained his composed self as Kohli (23, 59b, 3x4) joined him after the fall of Agarwal, ending the most productive stand – 106 off 195 balls -- of the day. Pujara was on 33 off 86 then and by the time India went for tea, he had moved to 61 off 138, bringing up his half-century with three fours on the penultimate over before second break after inviting Marnus Labuschagne to the attack with three fours. India collected 112/1 in the session.

Kohli departed in the first over after resumption, playing Josh Hazlewood down the leg only to be caught by Paine behind the wickets to end a 54-run association. Ajinkya Rahane looked promising but he received an unplayable snorter from Mitchell Starc and was caught by Paine off his top glove while trying to keep it down. That ensued the most entertaining part of India’s innings with Pujara, who had reached his century with a four off Lyon, and Vihari scoring at a decent clip.


INDIA (I Innings):

Agarwal c Starc b Lyon 77

(112b, 7x4, 2x6)

Rahul c S Marsh b Hazlewood 9

(6b, 2x4)

Pujara (batting) 130

(250b, 16x4)

Kohli c Paine b Hazlewood 23

(59b, 4x4)

Rahane c Paine b Starc 18

(55b, 1x4)

Vihari (batting) 39

(58b, 5x4)

Extras (LB-2, W-5) 7

Total (for 4 wkts, 90 overs) 303

Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Rahul), 2-126 (Agarwal), 3-180 (Kohli), 4-228 (Rahane).

Bowling: Starc 18-0-75-1, Hazlewood 20-7-51-2, Cummins 19-3-62-0, Lyon 29-5-88-1. Labuschagne 4-0-25-0.

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