India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 1st day August 23, 2012

Pujara ton highlight on India's day


India 307 for 5 (Pujara 119*, Kohli 58) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The first day of the Hyderabad Test gave India a sign of the leading contender for their vacant no. 3 slot. Cheteshwar Pujara's maiden Test century, more than 20 months after he last played for India, helped his team come up for air more than once and they finished the first day on 307 for 5.

Pujara's unbeaten 119 was an innings of glacial composure and helped the Indians tide through their dips in a day that remained for the better part tightly competed. The game is more in India's control now: the total has just crossed 300, captain MS Dhoni is batting on 29 alongside Pujara and the batsmen believe the wicket has begun to slow down, the ball started to turn. Regardless of how much of the turning is just hokey talk, New Zealand do bat last and India do have two spinners.

Hyderabad was expected to offer proof of what India's gen next middle-order was supposed to look like following the retirement of both Dravid and Laxman. If Pujara has just got his finger prints all over the No.3 slot, Virat Kohli had done enough in the last year to let it be known that his place in the team these days is a given.

Pujara's fourth wicket 125-run partnership with Kohli formed the centerpiece of India's batting today. When Kohli came in to bat, India had lost their seniormost specialist batsmen - Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar - with more than half the day's play remaining. The score was 125-3 and New Zealand's three-man frontline seam attack (James Franklin's military medium not exactly threatening) were asking enough questions of a side that has lost eight of its last 11 Tests.

Pujara and Kohli paced and weighted their partnership well. They were helped by the fact that, the moment Tendulkar fell, New Zealand captain Ross Taylor continued to offer the batsmen Jeetan Patel at one end for as many as eight overs. No matter what or who came to them from the other end, for a passage of time Patel was, for all his containment, the pressure-releasing bowler.

New Zealand were not helped by their slip cordon either - make that by their captain Taylor, whose nightmare could said to have begun in the morning, when he lost the toss. Three genuine catches went down today; these do not including Daniel Flynn backpedalling from square leg trying to get to one that Sehwag had ballooned up off Chris Martin or Pujara's only chance all day, when on 60, to Flynn at short leg. The three New Zealand let go were all behind the wicket and Taylor featured in all of them: Sehwag on 35 hit one between Taylor and the keeper Kruger van Wyk; Patel had Kohli pushing at one when on 46, with Taylor caught on the wrong foot, and Dhoni went through Taylor's hands off the second ball he faced.

It was a pity because for most of the day New Zealand's seamers had kept at their job. They made use of the new ball and the conditions that helped them eke out any swing, getting rid of the Indian openers inside the first session, Sehwag and Gambhir both falling to loose shots. Tendulkar was gone less than an hour into the second session, Boult bursting through his gate with one that swung late into him. Boult was New Zealand's bowler for most of the day, sending down a controlled line, moving the ball both ways at good pace.

When the third session began, however, Pujara and Kohli were able to lean on the bowling. India had knocked off 35 runs inside the first five overs after tea. Doug Bracewell limped off with a cramp in the second over, bringing on backup Franklin with makeshift spinner Kane Williamson turning up to bowl a few overs to inch New Zealand closer to the second new ball.

Franklin went for three boundaries in the second over after tea and Pujara deposited Williamson's half-tracker in the stands over midwicket. Kohli looked in complete control, all classical style merged with contemporary improvisation. In the first hour after tea, India's two middle-order tykes had put up 56 in 11 overs to the New Zealand allsorts combination of Franklin, Williamson and Patel.

Martin was brought back to stem the tide and against the run of play Kohli, who had crossed his fifty by edging one off Patel, tried to square cut Martin, like Sehwag had. Like Sehwag, he too edged it to Martin Guptill at second slip, out for 58.

By then Pujara was already on 95, having raced through the second half of his innings, close to a run a ball. This after his first 50 had come off 119 balls, batting alongside Sehwag and Tendulkar. Unmindful of the calm that is associated with India's No 3 slot, Pujara glided one past gully for a boundary off Martin to reach 99 and blocked the next three. Only when Franklin drifted down leg did Pujara flick him to fine leg and sprint through for the single that took him to his century. His grin was the size of the stadium.

Ten runs later, Raina was out, caught behind flicking Patel down leg. Which once again seemed to remind Pujara of his duties as anchor: Dhoni came in at 260-5, the two putting on 47 in the 15-odd overs they had to play out to stumps. Without Bracewell, New Zealand had to split the new ball between Martin, who had already bowled five spells in the day and Boult, who bowled his 16 overs in six lots.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Al on August 26, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Congrats to India U19 winning worldcup. Now with regard to the test match, no wonder you don't want DRS because if you used it both Guptill & McCallum would still be there. Shame on you

  • Dummy4 on August 25, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    It's too early to see Pujara as a replacement of Dravid or Laxman, but he has the temperament.He just need to perform well in overseas countries.

  • Harish on August 25, 2012, 7:39 GMT

    @ M.Vijay: need to include M.Vijay for test team,do u really think he deserves a look at him about including in the team? if so, on what basis? if u do, it'll be similar to Raina's story. he was dropped on non performance & given chance again without doing anything in the format, we can see the result: 3 valuable runs on the scoreboard. performing in South Africa in T20 formats is entirely different from performing in test cricket i think? If Badrinath was given the chance as we gave to MV, he would have been a success. Now also he's not getting chance bcoz dhoni raina friendship. so sad:-( never seen a player getting chances just bcoz he's a good friend of the captain!!!

  • Al on August 25, 2012, 1:00 GMT

    Drop Tendu and bring in Badri. Tendu has become a burden on his team. Gotta feel bad for Badri. He won't get a chance until Tendu retires, and at this rate Badri will retire before Tendu.

  • Anahita on August 24, 2012, 15:04 GMT

    i have only one reply to all sachin's critics: look at the link below;filter=advanced;orderby=runs;qualmin1=5;qualval1=matches;spanmin1=30+Jun+2011;spanval1=span;team=6;template=results;type=batting

    tell me now... who should be out of the team?? why is performance not a factor?? and this is only for the last 12 months... if you go back another year, there is no one even close to tendulkar...

  • Andy on August 24, 2012, 13:02 GMT

    @Flighted_kiwi: Well said mate, let me put my prospective here. When I joined cricninfo for commenting, I used to comment only about the current matches - or what the article was supposed to be for, its only after I saw the bad mouths from other quarters I had decided to get into the pit as well, there is a limit to digest as well when lot of foul terms are coming your way. I had appealed quite a few times to keep the topic on & not to drag it to some others especially don't end up with comparing about teams/players who weren't part of it but it wasn't heard really. So, its become a hard reality, point a few comments on the match & fight with others in the remaining hatred spreading users. Period.

  • Dummy4 on August 24, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    19 runs 62 balls-dead wicket- how much longer do we need to endure this for Mr God. Please leave now and let us see a couple of young lads who need to be blooded on Indian wickets.

  • Dummy4 on August 24, 2012, 6:32 GMT

    Every time the TV showed Sachin's dismissal of yesterday, I was hoping to see an "unplayable" ball. Alas, it wasn't. It was a straight wicket to wicket one with some pace, but no wickedness. It was a pure and simple case of SLOW reflex. Before he could sight the ball, it had knocked down the middle stump. And, it is not the first time it is happening. Being a 73 year old, I know too well that you can't fight the ageing process... for ever... and ever. Yes, maturity, grace, and willingness to sit back and enjoy life, and continue to relish all the admiration ... all this can be developed... with age! When will we see that happening?

  • ajith on August 24, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    Short answer to Sachin critics. Look at his stats for the last 10-20 tests and compare with others. Incl VVS btw. Then start yapping about his failures and stuff. I saw a post that he hasnt had a 100 in the last 10 tests. Is that a necessity? He has had 2 90s and an 80 in that period. A few 50s as well. Seriously, dont post because you like to write. Make a factual point, no hot air..

  • VIjay on August 24, 2012, 5:38 GMT

    Why we can consider Murali Vijay in stead of Rahane including in the playing 11. He is a good Batsman for all type of cricket. If we test to build the middle order with Sewag / Gambhir Murali Vijay will suit with both the opening batsman..

    For Newzeland serious he is not in the playing Squad. but we can use in the forthcoming South african series in SA.

    and one more thing He( Murali Vijay ) is having better record in South african pitches in IPL & CLT20.

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