In Stats: Pujara, and Rare Fight From India’s Lower-Middle Order

Cheteshwar Pujara’s fighting hundred pulled India out of a corner on Day 1 of their opening Test against Australia at Adelaide. The visitors were in positions of strife, at 41/4 and then 127/6, after opting to bat in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy opener – only for a characteristically gritty 123 from Pujara to spare their blushes and see them finish day’s play on 250/9.

The Indian number three’s 16th Test century was only his third outside Asia, and Pujara’s toil, along with a determined display from the Indian lower-middle order, provided the stand-out numbers from the day.

Here are the statistical highlights from Day 1 of the Adelaide Test.

In his last 37 innings in Tests outside Asia, Pujara had crossed three digits only once – an undefeated 132 in the first innings of India’s fourth Test against England at Southampton earlier this year. The No. 3 averaged a far-from-exceptional 26 in Tests in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa since the start of 2014.

If ever India needed a successful stonewall from Pujara, this was it – and he didn’t disappoint. In six previous innings in Australia, he had managed only 201 runs with just one score in excess of 50.

Through the course of 246-ball vigil, Pujara also breached the 5,000-run barrier in Test cricket. By reaching the landmark in 108 innings, he becomes the joint fifth-fastest Indian to 5,000 Test runs.

What was particularly impressive, was Pujara’s ability to pick up the scoring as he began to find himself accompanied by India’s lower-order. Until the fall of Rishabh Pant, with the score reading 127/6, Pujara had been striking at less than 30 runs per 100 balls. That strike rate, however, burgeoned to nearly 70 after Pant’s dismissal – well in excess of Pujara’s career strike rate of 47.12.

During his 123, Pujara hit two sixes – one each off Mitchell Starc & Josh Hazlewood. It was only the second time in his Test career that Pujara had hit two or more sixes in an innings; the only other occasion being against England at Visakhapatnam in 2016.

41/4 in 20.2 overs on the opening morning of a Test match outside the subcontinent. In most cases, the stats to come out at the end of such a day would be of the embarrassing kind. But Thursday, 6 December, was different.

This Test match is the first time that India have had four partnerships of 40 runs or more for the wickets 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Nathan Lyon struck twice for Australia in the second session on Day 1. The dismissals of Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant mean the off-spinner now has more wickets against India than against any other opposition in Test matches.

The most prized breakthrough for the hosts, though, was provided by Pat Cummins when he removed Virat Kohli in the morning – although Usman Khawaja had a fair claim on the wicket as it came off a stunning catch at gully.

Cummins, who had dismissed Virat Kohli with the only ball he had bowled to him previously, now boasts stupendous numbers against the Indian captain – 4 balls bowled, zero runs conceded, twice dismissed.

Usman Khawaja (right) pulled off a sensational catch at gully to send Indian captain Virat Kohli back to the hut.

There was something to cheer for Kohli, though – and it came right at the beginning of play. Having lost all five tosses on the tour of England earlier this year, Kohli finally called correctly in an away Test. Including the tour of South Africa in January, this is only the second time India have won the toss in nine away Tests in 2018. Kohli’s opposite number, Tim Paine, is yet to win a toss in the four Tests he has captained Australia in.

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