Cheteshwar Pujara, brought in as a replacement for Rahul Dravid, struck his maiden Test century to put India in command on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand yesterday.
Pujara’s unbeaten 119 took the hosts to 307 for five at the close after winning the toss. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (29) was the other not-out batsman.
Batting in the No. 3 spot vacated by the recently retired Dravid, the 24-year-old Pujara displayed a cool temperament akin to his predecessor as he came in for his fourth Test match and his first since January last year.
He hit 15 fours and a six during his 226-ball stay and added 125 for the fourth wicket with Virat Kohli (58) to help India overcome the loss of Gautam Gambhir (22), Virender Sehwag (47) and Sachin Tendulkar (19).
Pujara, who survived a close caught-behind call toward the end of the day, also shared an unbroken 47-run stand for the sixth wicket with Dhoni after the team lost Kohli and Suresh Raina (three) in quick succession.
India, beaten in eight consecutive away Tests in England and Australia last year, lost Gambhir and Sehwag in the morning session and batting great Tendulkar after lunch.
Tendulkar hit two boundaries before he was clean bowled by left-armer Trent Boult.
The seamer got the ball to straighten, breaching Tendulkar’s defence and taking out his middle stump.
Left-hander Gambhir was the first to depart when he edged Boult to wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk when trying to run the ball down to the third-man boundary.
Gambhir put on 49 for the opening wicket with Sehwag, who hit nine boundaries and survived two chances during a charmed 41-ball stay at the crease.
Daniel Flynn put down a difficult catch at square leg after the right-hander mistimed a pull off Chris Martin while an edge off Doug Bracewell flew between Van Wyk and captain Ross Taylor at first slip.
Bracewell finally got rid of the dangerous Sehwag when his attempted cut was snapped up by Martin Guptill at second slip.
New Zealand went on to spill more chances later in the day.
Pujara was dropped on 60 by Flynn off spinner Jeetan Patel at short leg, while Kohli’s edge off the same bowler went between the ’keeper and Taylor at first slip.
Off-spinner Patel was again unlucky when Dhoni survived a difficult chance at slip off his bowling. The second match in the two-Test series is in Bangalore, India, starting next Friday.