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Australia in control despite Pujara century

Photo Courtesy: ICC/Twitter

Australia’s four frontline bowlers all pick up two wickets each as the hosts seized control of the opening Test at Adelaide on Thursday, with only a stubborn Cheteshwar Pujara offering any real resistance.

The experienced number three did what he has done many times before and stood his ground as wickets tumbled around him, including superstar Virat Kohli for three, with India stumbling to 250-9 at stumps on day one.

Pujara faced 246 balls to score his 123 before a superb piece of fielding by Pat Cummins removed him right at the stroke of stumps.

Batting after Kohli won the toss on a day when temperatures topped 36 Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit), the visitors crumbled under an opening pace barrage.

Australia took four wickets before lunch with the batsmen guilty of playing at deliveries they would have been better off leaving alone.

Australian bowling coach David Saker said it was a premeditated plan for the quicks to pitch it up and lure India’s batsmen into false shots.

“We got the wickets the way we thought we might get the wickets,” he told the Seven Network.

Australia omitted vice-captain and all-rounder Mitch Marsh in preference for middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb, leaving them with just four recognised bowlers.

But they spectacularly rose to the challenge.

Opener KL Rahul, who has been struggling for runs, flopped again, caught by Aaron Finch at third slip off Hazlewood for two.

Veteran Murali Vijay, in the side after young gun Prithvi Shaw suffered ankle ligament damage in a warm-up game, didn’t last much longer, caught behind by skipper Tim Paine off Starc for 11.

In marched superstar Kohli to a huge roar from the crowd, but a stunning one-handed catch by Usman Khawaja at gully off a Cummins delivery as he attempted a drive saw him back in the pavilion for only three off 16 balls.

The dismissal of the prolific skipper, who rates Adelaide as his favourite overseas ground, sparked wild celebrations.

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara worked to steady the ship.

But after returning from a break, Hazlewood enticed Rahane into a drive and he edged it to Handscomb, who took the catch above his head at slip and he was gone for 13.

Rohit Sharma, preferred in the final XI to all-rounder Hanuma Vihari, compiled a patient 31 before sweeping Lyon for six, narrowly missing being caught on the ropes.

Sharma then had a brain fade and needlessly tried the same thing on the next ball, and this time debutant Marcus Harris comfortably collected the catch, with the right-hander once more failing to capitalise on a good start.

It was left to Pujara, in his 65th Test, to dig in and stay at the crease as he found able support from Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin, who both scored 25 apiece.

 

 

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