STORY: An Indian rescue mission seemingly tailor-made for Virat Kohli instead fell to Cheteshwar Pujara who took his captain’s ‘Superman’ cape and struck a vital century to save the tourists on day one of the series-opening test against Australia.
After Kohli was swept away for just three runs in a maelstrom of dismal shot-making, Pujara carved out a sparkling 123 to guide India to 250 for nine at stumps on a scorching hot day at Adelaide Oval on Thursday (December 06).
Battling a hamstring strain in the final session, the 30-year-old Saurashtra player produced a masterclass in game management through his 246-ball knock.
Watchful early against Australia’s vaunted pace attack, he then hammered them around the game with an assault on the second new ball late in the day.
It took a brilliant piece of fielding by Pat Cummins to remove Pujara with the last ball of the day, the paceman finding the energy to swoop in and throw down the stumps despite bowling 19 overs in the stifling conditions.
Though disappointed, Pujara strode off to a standing ovation in the terraces having steered India to a defendable total after they were reduced for 41 for four in a disastrous first session.
“It was one of my top innings in test cricket, I could say top five,” the Indian number three told reporters after a knock of seven fours and two sixes.
India’s talisman Kohli was also removed by inspired fielding, with Usman Khawaja pinching a stunning one-handed catch with a full-stretch leap in the gully.
Kohli was among five of India’s top six batsmen to give up their wickets with loose shots, leaving Pujara to salvage a total from the rubble.
“To be honest we should have batted better but they also bowled well in the first two sessions,” said Pujara.
Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc also heaped praises for Pujara who survived the host’s pace onslaught in the first two sessions.
The pace trio of Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins rattled the Indian top order and claimed two wickets each. Spinner Nathan Lyon also struck twice for the hosts.
“If you said we’d be 250 for nine after losing the toss … I think we’d bite your arm off,” said Starc.