Cheteshwar Pujara scored a gritty 123 in punishing conditions to claw India back into the opening Test in Adelaide on Thursday after Australia seized early control as the top-order crumbled.
Pujara, in trademark fashion, played a cautious but fighting knock facing 246 balls at a trike rate of 50. In the process he passed 5,000 Test runs for his 16th Test century, even as the wickets tumbled around him, including superstar captain Virat Kohli for three.
At the end of a day characterised by poor shot selection, Pujara, on 123, went for a quick single on the second-last ball of the over and was dismissed via a brilliant run-out courtesy a diving Pat Cummins.
A spectacular direct hit onto the stumps was probably the only way for Pujara’s resistance to come to an end as he had proved to be virtually impregnable, navigating pace and pin alike. In fact, he actually scored two sixes – off Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
But credit to Cummins, who displayed remarkable agility despite it being the end of a hot day in Adelaide. The fast bowler had sent down 19 overs during the day, picking the big wicket of captain Virat Kohli and then ending the solid partnership between Pujara and Ashwin.
Earlier in the day, Kohli opted to bat in ideal conditions but the top-order once again failed to apply themselves against the potent pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins. Anything close to 250 looked a mountain to climb with India reeling at 56/4 at lunch. But Pujara stood tall amid the ruins to take India to 250/9 at stumps.