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Cricket: Pujara's 123 keeps India alive on first day

ADELAIDE • A 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 India 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 raced past 5,000 Test runs as he compiled a patient 123 in hot and difficult conditions at the Adelaide Oval to help the tourists to 250-9 at stumps.

The experienced No. 3 rated his 16th Test ton as among his most memorable, hitting seven fours and two sixes in his 246-ball stay.

“It was one of my top innings in Test cricket. I could say top five. I can’t rate whether it was one of the best but appreciative teammates said this is one of the best,” said Pujara, who had to battle a vaunted pace attack as well as a hamstring strain in the final session.

The 30-year-old began slowly, grinding out ones and twos, and really started going after the bowlers as they tired towards the end.

He was run out attempting a quick single on the second-last ball of the day by a diving Pat Cummins.

He strode off to a standing ovation in the terraces, having steered India to a defendable total after they were reduced to 41 for four in a disastrous first session.

He explained: “I was a bit disappointed but I had to take that single because only the last two balls were left and I thought I should be on strike. But he fielded brilliantly.”

The right-hander, who is playing his 65th Test, tends not to play much white-ball cricket and said the extra time he had to prepare had paid dividends.

“It means a lot. I would like to say to people who say I’ve scored more runs in India,” he said. “Look at the number of matches we play in India. I’ll obviously score runs there.

“At times I’ve had bad phases playing overseas but I still feel very confident when it comes to different conditions.”

He credited a stint at Yorkshire for helping him prepare, saying: “Playing county cricket has helped me a lot. Playing in England, conditions are always challenging and when you come to Australia, you know that it is slightly better.”

He has had two stints as an overseas player for county side Yorkshire, in 2015 and again during the recent English summer. He has also appeared for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIA V INDIA

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