Pujara gives India ascendancy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, January 04, 2019

Pujara gives India ascendancy

Irrepressible Cheteshwar Pujara stroked his third century of the summer Thursday to put India in a commanding position in the decisive fourth and final Test as they strive for an historic series win in Australia.

At stumps on day one, they were 303 for four with the rock-like number three not out 130 and Hanuma Vihari on 39. Mayank Agarwal made 77, with Josh Hazlewood the best of the bowlers with 2-51.

After toiling on a hot Sydney day, Australia were rewarded with the wickets of KL Rahul, Agarwal, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, but despite a five-pronged attack the key scalp of Pujara remained elusive.

The visitors lead the series 2-1 after winning the opening clash in Adelaide and the third one in Melbourne. Australia claimed victory in Perth.

If India, the world's top-ranked nation, win or draw in Sydney they will clinch a first-ever series in Australia since they began touring Down Under in 1947-48.

"We are very happy, although we would have liked to be only three down. That said 300 for four on the first day, choosing to bat, I think we are in a great position," said Agarwal, who paid tribute to Pujara.

"It's great to watch him bat from the other end, the way he grinds the bowlers. He understands his strengths and he sticks with that. He's very tight with his defence and just waits for the bad ball to come."

Marnus Labuschagne, who in a surprise throw of the dice was picked by Australia to be their number three, said his team must learn from Pujara.

"He was very classy. I think it's something I personally can take a lot from. He has just batted a lot of time and that's what we're going to need to do," he said.

Kohli again won the toss and Australia got an early breakthrough with Hazlewood tempting Rahul into a defensive shot that took a outside edge and carried to Shaun Marsh at slip, and he was gone for nine.

But that only brought the stoic Pujara to the crease and like he has done all series, the 68-Test veteran dug in and blunted the new ball.

He survived a review decision for caught behind on 12, but otherwise gave a masterclass.

SCORES IN BRIEF

INDIA: First innings 303 for 4 (Agarwal 77, Pujara 130 not out, Kohli 23, Vihari 39 not out; Hazlewood 2-51)

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