Adelaide: Cheteshwar Pujara (123, 246b, 7×4, 2×6) rose to the occasion with a maiden century in Australia, pulling India out of a deep hole to a respectable 250 for nine on day one of the first Test here, Thursday.
Pujara showed the same grit and gumption that is typical of him en route a steady and watchful century that kept India in the game after being reduced to 127 for six in the 50th over.
It took a brilliant direct from Pat Cummins (2/49) to remove him on what happened to be the final ball of an absorbing day one of the four-Test series.
Skipper Virat Kohli opted to bat in ideal conditions but the top order once again failed to apply themselves against the potent pace trio of Mitchell Starc (2/63), Josh Hazlewood (2/52) and Cummins.
Anything close to 250 looked a mountain to climb with India reeling at 56 for four at lunch. But Pujara stood tall amid the ruins to save India from embarrassment on way to his 16th Test ton. Post tea, Pujara added 62 runs with R Ashwin (25) for the seventh wicket before Cummins dismissed the latter.
Earlier, Pujara’s effort was the sole silver lining after India were reduced to 143/6 at tea. This was after a horrendous shot selection by Rohit Sharma (37, 61b, 2×4, 3×6) left India in the lurch at 86 for five in the 38th over. The duo added 45 runs for the fifth wicket.
Rishabh Pant (25) too arrived at the crease with intent of attacking the bowling. The duo then added 41 runs for the sixth wicket before Nathan Lyon (2/83) got rid of Pant shortly before tea.
In the morning session, the Australian pacers struck regularly with the new Kookaburra ball and made inroads into the Indian top order that never got going.
Indian openers KL Rahul (2) and Murali Vijay (11) dismissed cheaply. Given the conditions, Kohli (3) then walked out to bat a lot earlier than anticipated and an awe-inducing diving catch ended his short stay at the crease. Usman Khawaja dove to his left and held a stunning one-handed catch at gully off Cummins as Kohli was sent back with India reeling at 19/3 in 11 overs.
Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (13) then came together for the fourth wicket, trying to put on a semblance of a partnership. Together they faced 59 balls and put on 22 runs in a bid to keep the scoreboard ticking. Rahane fell to Hazelwood, the fourth batsman out driving in this morning session, and was caught at second slip.
Brief scores: India 250/9 (Cheteshwar Pujara 123, Rohit Sharma 37; Pat Cummins 2/49, Josh Hazlewood 2/52) vs Australia. Match to continue.