Sport Cricket Khawaja’s classic catch and Pujara’s fighting ton highlights as Aussies take a grip on first Test

Khawaja’s classic catch and Pujara’s fighting ton highlights as Aussies take a grip on first Test

Australia's bowlers gave their team mates plenty to celebrate at the Adelaide Oval Photos: Getty
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Stumps, Day 1 – India 9-250

Pujara -123

Hazlewood 2-52,  Lyon 2-83, Cummins 2-49, Starc 2-63

Australia’s bowlers have mauled India’s top batsmen and reinforced the challenge the visitors face if they are to win their first series on Australian soil.

Cheteshwar Pujara (123) was the only batsman to offer sustained resistance to some fine bowling as India battled to recover from the loss of early wickets.

India finished the day’s play at 9-250, a score that seemed unlikely as the wickets tumbled early.

In front of a crowd of 23,802 in sweltering conditions, Pujara produced his 16th Test ton in a gritty innings that gives India a lifeline in this match.

His rearguard fightback was ended when he was run out by a superb piece of fielding by Pat Cummins.

Josh Hazlewood, Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon displayed the depth of Australia’s bowling group by grabbing two wickets each.

The dismissal of India’s star batsman Virat Kohli was the highlight of a brilliant first session for Australia.

The Indian captain, seen as the key to the tourists’ batting fortunes, was sensationally caught in the gully by a flying Usman Khawaja, who sent him on his way for a score of only 3.

Australia’s opening bowlers struck early in hot conditions to claim wickets in the opening hour of play at Adelaide Oval to leaving India’s top order in disarray.

Kohli won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch that was offering the bowlers some life early.

Australia’s opening bowling pair of Starc and Hazlewood sensed the urgency of the moment. Their task was to maximise the early pace and bounce in the pitch and make early inroads into the Indian top order.

They were right on task.

Hazlewood struck first in just the second over when he enticed Lokesh Rahul (2) into an errant drive, from which a thick edge flew to Aaron Finch at a comfortable height at third slip.

His opening partner Murali Vijay was soon to follow.

This time it was the big left-arm paceman Starc who had Vijay fishing for a delivery outside off stump that he edged to Australian skipper Tim Paine behind the stumps to be dismissed for 11.

Kohli strode to the wicket with India 2-15. He needed to apply triage to the Indian batting but his stay was also short-lived.

The Indian captain lives dangerously and often profits handsomely as a consequence.

As he slashed at a Cummins delivery he had every expectation of seeing the ball crash into the boundary rope beneath the Mark Ricciuto Stand.

What he saw though was an acrobatic Khawaja diving to his left like a goalkeeper and completing an early nomination for the catch of the summer.

At 3-19 India was being rudely reminded that winning in Australia is never easy. It is still very early in the series but India’s batsmen had to assert themselves.

That job fell to Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara. Surviving until the lunch break was their priority.

Rahane has a century on Australian soil and averaged 49 on his last tour. It counted for little here, though, as he was the next to succumb to Hazlewood’s line and length, edging to Peter Handscomb at second slip.

As India slumped to 4-41, aspirations of a big first-innings total were in danger of withering in the blazing midday sun.

Pujara fell short of a century (74) in his last Test in Adelaide and that experience held him in good stead as he and Rohit Sharma attempted to restore equilibrium to the Indian innings.

For Sharma though, patience was in short supply.

Having hit Nathan Lyon for a six over square leg that Marcus Harris caught outside the boundary rope, he tried to repeat the dose the very next ball and it ended in disaster.

This time he misjudged the flight of the Lyon delivery and skied a catch, which Harris raced in from the boundary to claim to leave India stricken at 5-86.

Rishabh Pant’s defiant swipe behind square leg off Starc for six brought up India’s 100th run but it felt like an act of desperation rather than defiance as Starc continued to beat the bat with pace and accuracy.

Pant provided a wafer-thin edge to a ball that drifted slightly and Paine took the catch to break the 41-run partnership, sending Pant on his way for 25.

Puraja received solid support from Rohit Sharma (37 from 61 balls) and Ravichandran Ashwin (25 from 76 balls) as he inched his way toward a first Test century in Australia.

Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins have been quick, disciplined and accurate. Lyon’s ability to manufacture wickets at the right time has not abated.

Pujara showed the mentality of a fighter and reaped the rewards with a famous century.

India’s bowlers will need to mirror that performance with the ball on Friday if they are serious about challenging Australia’s dominance on home turf.