On a day that saw the majority of the India A batsmen disappointing, captain Ajinkya Rahane led from the front with a classy ton as the visitors reached 237/8 at stumps on day one at Drummoyne Oval in Sydney on Sunday.

Cheteshwar Pujara (54 off 140 balls) scored a typically patient half century but it was Rahane (108* off 228 balls), the Indian captain for this match, who grabbed the headlines with his 34th first-class century. He remained unbeaten at the end of the day.

Having won the toss and opted to bat first on a lively pitch at the Sydney venue, India A were off to a horror start. Both openers Shubman Gill (0 off 1 ball) and Prithvi Shaw (0 off 8 balls) were dismissed for ducks and did not do much good for their cases to partner Mayank Agarwal in the opening Test match in Adelaide.

Walking into bat for the first time in a competitive match since the Ranji Trophy final in March, Pujara played with characteristic determination against an all-pace Aussie bowling attack. Despite the pitch offering plenty of assistance in terms of bounce and pace, Pujara looked comfortable as he got to a half century.

After a brief recovery with Hanuma Vihari, Rahane joined Pujara and the captain was off to a shaky start. He got his bearing right soon after, and played some gorgeous strokes through the innings.

When the partnership looked strong, Pujara was dismissed caught down the leg side by James Pattinson, the picks of Australia’s bowlers, and that resulted in a flurry of wickets. Wriddhiman Saha, selected ahead of Rishabh Pant, was out for a duck too but he was unfortunate to be given out LBW off the Aussie captain Travis Head’s bowling.

R Ashwin followed soon after but Rahane found good company in Kuldeep Yadav (15) as the duo played good cricket post tea to put on a 69-run partnership for the seventh wicket. It was the second fifty-plus stand of the day after Rahane shared a 76-run stand for the fourth wicket with Pujara after India A were reduced to 40/3.

While Kuldeep fell in the 80th over, Rahane got to the century after the second new ball was taken.

Earlier, while Gill edged the first ball he faced to Marcus Harris at third slip, Shaw nicked one to wicketkeeper Tim Paine as India slipped to 6/2 in the third over.

Pujara’s innings was laced with five fours. He played the leg-glance to pick up three boundaries in the fine leg area, two off them in successive deliveries of Pattinson in the ninth over.

Also playing his first competitive game since the coronavirus-induced break, Hanuma Vihari (15) looked good for a while before Jackson Bird found him plumb in front in the 19th over.

Pujara and Rahane then joined hands to steady the innings. The former reached his fifty with a shot to deep mid-wicket in the 45th over which yielded three runs. He was dismissed in the 47th over, caught at leg gully by Harris off Pattinson.

Back in action after recovering from a hamstring injuries, Saha, a contender for the wicket-keeping spot, had a forgettable outing. Ashwin (5) then became the third victim of Pattinson as India went into the tea break at 128/6 in 53 overs.

Rahane slowed down a bit after the break before reaching his fifty with an upper cut six off Pattinson in the 61st over. He kept the scoreboard ticking but Head removed Kuldeep, who misjudged a sweep shot as the side slumped to 197/7.

For Australia, Pattinson, who played a crucial role in the early part of Mumbai Indians’ title-winning IPL campaign, continued his good run with three wickets. Pacers Michael Neser (2/51) and Bird (1/34) too bowled well, while skipper Head picked up two wickets with his part-time off-spin.


India A playing XI: Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Md. Siraj, Kartik Tyagi  

Australia A playing XI: Australia A: Joe Burns, Will Pucovski, Marcus Harris, Travis Head (c), Cameron Green, Nic Maddinson, Tim Paine (wk), James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Mark Steketee, Jackson Bird 

With PTI inputs