cheteshwar pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara (AFP Photo)

With India starting their bid to seal a maiden series win on Australian soil in the fourth and final Test, presenting the best and worst from the opening day’s play at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Shot of the day

Mayank Agarwal continued to enjoy a strong start to his Test career hitting his second fifty in as many Tests. He survived a testing phase after India opted to bat with the pace trio of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins peppered the Indian batsmen with short deliveries. He hopped and dodged his way to a fighting fifty. When the length was on offer, he unfurled exquisite cover drives but the most striking of his hits came against Nathan Lyon. In Melbourne, Agarwal had shown his teammates how to deal with the threat of Lyon – attack and not let him settle. He continued the strategy against the offspinner in Sydney as well as he charged forward and thumped him over the long-on fielder off the very first delivery he bowled after the lunch break.

Ball of the day

With India recovering nicely after suffering an early jolt, the Australian bowlers had to toil hard for wickets. The wickets that India had lost had more to do with bad shot selection than being at the receiving end of brutal deliveries. Mitchell Starc went wicketless in the first session and with the ball turning old, there was little he could do to trouble the batsmen. However, there’s a reason he’s considered to be one of the leading pacers of the current era. An example of it came in the 71st over when he produced a peach of a delivery to catch Ajinkya Rahane by surprise and give his team a vital breakthrough. Rushing in from round the wickets, Starc got one to lift from an awkward length and despite Rahane’s best efforts to dodge the snorter, the ball managed to kiss his glove and wicketkeeper Tim Paine leapt to accept a decent overhead catch.

 

Sharp eyes

DRS, on several occasions, has left umpires embarrassed but today wasn’t going to be one of those days. Umpire Richard Kettleborough had adjudged Cheteshwar Pujara not out after the Aussies appealed for a caught behind. There was a noise as the ball went between Pujara’s defences and nestled into the hands of Tim Paine. Australians also didn’t look much convinced about it being out but went for the review. Upon inspection, the snicko showed a deflection when the ball went past Pujara’s thigh pad. The not out decision was upheld and the hosts had burned their review early in the day.

 

Moment of the day

Certainly, Pujara pumping his fists after hitting a four off Starc that took him to three figures, should be the moment of the day. It was his third century of the ongoing tour and 18th overall. He came in to bat as early as the second over of the day after KL Rahul departed cheaply. He faced the barrage of short deliveries that Aussie pacers let loose and ended up copping one on his helmet that required the intervention of the physio. Pujara was unfazed and extended his excellent form to peel off yet another century.

 

Tweet of the day

 

 

Statistics of the day

For the second time in his career, Pujara has faced over 1000 deliveries in a Test series, highlighting his penchant for absorbing pressure and playing long innings. The last time Pujara did it was also during the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy played in India, where he finished the series with 368 runs off 1049 deliveries. By the close of the play, he the figure went up to 1135 surpassing his previous record.

Worst moment

Well, KL Rahul giving throwing away yet another lifeline. The absence of Rohit Sharma meant India pushed Vihari back into the middle order. That opened up a spot at the top and among the two openers Murali Vijay and Rahul, India preferred the latter. From the moment Rahul faced the first delivery, his struggles became clear. Off the second delivery of the morning, he got an edge that went between the slip fielders for a streaky four. Then an outside edge off Hazlewood in the following over gave him his second four.

 

He ran out of luck when he went after a delivery that could have been safely left along and ended up edging it to find Shaun Marsh at the first slip. It was the fourth time the Indian fell to Hazlewood.