Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten century put India in a strong position as the hosts ended Day One of the first Test against New Zealand at 307 for five yesterday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Pujara, who played his last Test in January 2011, cracked a solid 119 not out.
India were under pressure at 125-3 after losing experienced Virender Sehwag (47), Gautam Gambhir (22) and Sachin Tendulkar (19). Pujara found an able ally in Virat Kohli until the latter was caught by Martin Guptill off Chris Martin for 58 after a fourth-wicket stand of 125 had taken the home side to 250. Pujara then teamed up with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose unbeaten 29 from 37 balls took India past 300 without further loss.
‘First boy in class’
Former India captain and Kolkata Knight Riders’ teammate Sourav Ganguly was impressed while executing his commentary duties. “Pujara looks like a first boy of the class. He is very well organised and knows his game well. He has tremendous powers of concentration. He was calm and composed throughout the day. I have seen a lot of him while playing for KKR,” Ganguly told MiD DAY yesterday.
Pujara says spending much time in the nets has helped him. “Long practice sessions ahead of the Test helped me a lot. I wanted to score a hundred on my debut Test but I missed it, so I am really happy to score maiden hundred now. After play, skipper MS Dhoni came to me and said you can go for double century tomorrow (Friday). This will definitely motivate me,” added the 24-year-old.
Pujara, who batted at No 3 because of the retirement of batting legend Rahul Dravid, said it would be inappropriate to suggest that he can take Dravid’s place. “I don’t think I can replace Rahul Dravid because he is such a legend. He has scored more than 10,000 runs in both the formats of the game. It’s impossible to replace him,” he stressed.
Virender Sehwag runs out of luck
The composed performance of Cheteshwar Pujara contrasted with the hurried innings of opener Virender Sehwag, who fell three runs shy of his half-century in the morning session of Day One of the opening Test with a rapid 47 off 41 balls.
Sehwag lived dangerously throughout, having been dropped early on and then seeing another dangerous shot whiz through the slips, and his luck caught up with him in the 15th over. He could have few complaints, however, with a poor shot comfortably held by Martin Guptill at second slip off Doug Bracewell.
Only two overs earlier, he had received the second of his two let-offs, with a shot off Bracewell splitting the slips as Kruger van Wyk and Ross Taylor were left looking at each other. When on 23, he had been dropped by Daniel Flynn when offering a difficult chance at square leg off Chris Martin. Gambhir had been the first to go, caught behind off Trent Boult for 22. Virat Kohli, the third Delhi batsman in the team, played splendidly for his 58.
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