Pujara century rescues India after stunning start from Australia

By Sports Desk December 06, 2018

Cheteshwar Pujara claimed his first century on Australian soil to rescue India from a top-order collapse and leave honours even on day one of the opening Test.

Favourites heading into the Adelaide clash, India – who won the toss and elected to bat – struggled to settle early on, a string of loose shots seeing Australia claim four wickets before lunch.

Even the world's best Test batsman Virat Kohli was unable to make an impact, Usman Khawaja producing a sensational one-handed diving catch to remove the Indian skipper for three.

That left India reeling and 19-3 became 86-5, but Australia did not have it all their own way as a superb 123 from Pujara lifted the tourists to a respectable 250-9 before he was superbly run out by Pat Cummins from what proved to be the final ball of the day.

Australia were back on home soil for a Test without Steve Smith and David Warner for the first time since the star pair were handed 12-month bans following the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal in March.

They started well with Josh Hazlewood (2-52) striking the first blow in just the second over with a full delivery to KL Rahul (2), who loosely edged through to Aaron Finch.

Another poor shot and a lack of footwork brought the innings of Murali Vijay (11) to a close as Mitchell Starc's delivery and Tim Paine's catch helped reduce India to 15-2 before a moment of magic from Khawaja claimed the prized scalp of captain Kohli.

Fielding at gully, Khawaja – who endured a difficult build-up to the Test following the arrest of his brother on Tuesday – dived to his left and hung onto a stunning catch after Kohli pushed at Cummins (2-49).

India went from 19-3 to 41-4 when a late swinging but wide delivery from Hazlewood drew an edge from Ajinkya Rahane (13) as the tourists stumbled to lunch.

Nathan Lyon (2-83) took over in the middle session with two wickets, aided by some erratic batting from Rohit Sharma (37), who had targeted the Australian off-spinner.

After slog-sweeping Lyon for six in the 38th over, Rohit attempted the same shot off the very next ball but top-edged to debutant Marcus Harris before the spinner dismissed Rishabh Pant (25) caught behind.

While all around him were losing their heads, Pujara remained calm and composed and with the support of Ravichandran Ashwin (25) he steadied the ship with a 62-run stand for the seventh wicket.

Pujara was watchful throughout, punishing the bad balls off the back foot and keeping his nerve when he moved into the 90s – successive pulls for six and four off Hazlewood moving him onto 99 and beyond 5,000 Test runs after Starc (2-63) had cleaned up Ishant Sharma (4).

He reached three figures for the 16th time in his career soon after but he could not make the close unbeaten as Cummins' sensational throw at one stump from a fully horizontal mid-air position caught him short of his ground.

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    Both Australia and India downplayed an incident between Tim Paine and Virat Kohli during day four of the second Test in Perth, insisting it was "just good banter" between the two captains.

    Having had a verbal exchange at stumps the previous day, the two captains again shared words before lunch during Monday's play, leading to umpire Chris Gaffaney stepping in to diffuse the situation.

    Paine did not immediately heed Gaffaney's request, with television footage picking up him telling his opposite number: "Keep your cool, Virat."

    Kohli responded only with a smile, and team-mate Mohammed Shami – who claimed Test-best figures of 6-56 – insisted after the close that neither party were in the wrong.

    "It is a part of the game. You play Test cricket for a long time; players might get carried away in the moment," he said.

    "If there's no sledging, you might not enjoy the game as much. When there's aggression, more people will come to watch the match."

    Paine attempted to stir the pot again during India's second innings later in the day, as he was heard on the stump microphone asking Murali Vijay a question about Kohli.

    "I know he's your captain, but you can't seriously like him as a bloke?" Australia's skipper said to the opening batsman.

    The home side's behaviour is in the spotlight following the ball-tampering issue on the tour of South Africa earlier this year and a subsequent independent review into Cricket Australia that branded the organisation "arrogant" and "controlling".

    Yet Josh Hazlewood felt what happened between team-mate Paine and India's Kohli was "all in good spirits", particularly as the game was in the balance at the time.

    The paceman also made clear Australia's players understand there is a line that should not be crossed in terms of their behaviour on the field.

    "I think it was all good fun," Hazlewood said. "It's quite competitive out there as you know, and there's going to be words from time to time, but it was all in good spirits, I think.

    "I think at stages in a game it is going to get heated from time to time.

    "I think we are pretty confident that we can hold that line that we have talked about as a group. It's more in the heat of the moment, definitely not a ploy to attack any batsman at any stage. It has been really good so far. Just good banter.

    "I don't think we read too much into it. We go about our work as we see fit and the Indians can do what they like.

    "We control what we control, and our behaviour is what we control. We'll worry about that and let everything else take care of itself."

    India, who won the first Test in Adelaide to go 1-0 up in the four-match series, reached the end of day four on 112-5 in pursuit of a victory target of 287.

  • India lose Shaw for Australia tour as defeat looms in Perth India lose Shaw for Australia tour as defeat looms in Perth

    India have announced Prithvi Shaw will miss the entire Test series against Australia with an ankle injury - but Hardik Pandya is fit to join up with his team-mates for the final two games.

    Opening batsman Shaw suffered an ankle injury while fielding during a warm-up fixture prior to the series, ruling him out of the opener in Adelaide - which India won - and the ongoing second Test in Perth.

    The teenager - who made 134 on debut against West Indies in October - has now been ruled out for the remainder of the tour, with uncapped batsman Mayank Agarwal called up as a replacement.

    However there was better news for India concerning Pandya, who has been called up to the squad after overcoming a back injury picked up during the Asia Cup, the all-rounder proving his fitness in domestic cricket.

    Both Agarwal and Pandya will be available for selection for the third Test in Melbourne, by which time the series could well be level at 1-1.

    Set 287 for victory in Perth, the tourists never recovered from losing two wickets inside the opening four overs of their run chase, eventually reaching the close on 112-5.

    Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood both claimed two wickets apiece for the hosts, and the latter is confident they can go on and complete the job.

    "There's a bit of work to be done - we've just got to stay disciplined and patient, hit the right areas and five wickets is what we need," paceman Hazlewood told the media.

    "It's been a bit of a long time between wins, but any time I'm playing in Australia, with the Australian cricket team, we feel pretty confident. 

    "Especially the bowlers feel very confident in getting 20 wickets and getting a result. As we saw last year [in the Ashes win over England], we got home four times out of five. 

    "So we're feeling pretty confident of putting that into practice more often than not this summer."

  • Latham fills his boots in Wellington with record-breaking knock Latham fills his boots in Wellington with record-breaking knock

    Tom Latham was unsurprisingly a little tired after his record-breaking double century helped New Zealand turn the screw against Sri Lanka in the first Test.

    The opener faced 489 deliveries at the Basin Reserve in Wellington as he made a career-best 264 not out, the highest score by a player carrying their bat in a Test innings, surpassing Alastair Cook's unbeaten 244 for England against Australia in Melbourne last year.

    Glenn Turner is the only other Kiwi to carry his bat through a Test innings, achieving the feat against England in 1969 and then again three years later when West Indies were the opponents.

    While feeling the strain after his exploits, Latham praised his team-mates for keeping him company in a knock that spanned six sessions. He has been on the field for every delivery of the first three days of the match and looks unlikely to see that streak broken, with an innings victory on the cards for Kane Williamson's side.

    The Black Caps were eventually bowled out for 578 in reply to Sri Lanka's first-innings total of 282, with the tourists slipping to 20-3 second time around to reach stumps still 276 runs behind.

    "A little bit tired but the adrenaline is still running through me," Latham said after play, according to Stuff.co.nz.

    "The best thing is you get a break every two hours. It's important to get to certain stages of the game, whether that's lunch or tea.

    "The boys coming in managed to keep me going and kept me inside my gameplan which was probably the most pleasing."

    Latham is the first Black Caps batsman to reach 200 in a Test match since team-mate Ross Taylor made 290 against Australia in 2015.

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