Cheteshwar Pujara made a memorable comeback to Test cricket as he scored his maiden century and remained unbeaten to take India to 307 for 5 at stumps on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Thursday.
The classical right-hander, who has been touted to replace Rahul Dravid at the now-vacant No. 3 spot for quite some time now, played with aplomb against both the pacers and spinners. The 24-year-old stroked 15 fours and a six in his 226-ball knock.
Electing to bat first, India although were given a rousing start by Virender Sehwag - scoring 47 runs off just 41 balls, they were reduced to 125 for 3 when Sachin Tendulkar (19) was bowled by Trent Boult. The veteran batsman was done in by the ball that swung in after pitching on good length.
Virat Kohli joined Pujara as the two youngsters shared a 125-run stand for the fourth wicket to take India to a safer zone until they lost two back-to-back wickets. First, it was Kohli who tried to cut a Chris Martin delivery despite being cramped for room, giving a straight forward catch to Martin Guptill at second slip. And then Raina tried to glide a well outside leg stump delivery from Jeetan Patel to fine leg which was neatly taken by wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk. Kohli hit eight fours in his 58-run knock, while Raina making just three.
With five down on 260, skipper MS Dhoni took the attack to the Kiwis, hitting a couple of boundaries and a maximum to ease the nerves. Pujara, along with Dhoni, saw off the second new ball and took India to a comfortable total.
It didn't turn out to be the sort of beginning New Zealand were hoping for before the start of the series, with all their bowlers being hammered and simple catches being dropped, especially by skipper Ross Taylor, who grassed as many as three catches.
Trent Boult was the most successful among all the bowlers, picking up 2 for 63 in his 16 overs, while Martin, Doug Bracewell - who pulled up his hamstring after completing just 10.4 overs, and Patel took one wicket apiece.
Earlier, Virender Sehwag's fiery batting was the focal point of the opening session as India reached 97 for 2 at lunch. Sehwag smacked nine fours in his 41-ball knock before being snapped up in the second slip by Guptill off Bracewell. The right-hander got two lifelines in the ninth and 13th overs, before he finally ran out of his luck.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir made full use of New Zealand's wayward bowling in the first hour of play, scoring boundaries with relative ease before the latter edged a good length delivery from Boult to van Wyk. The left-hander shared 49 for the opening wicket with Sehwag.
India added 85 runs to their score to reach 182 for 3 at tea, with Pujara and Kohli still at the wicket. The hosts added 125 for the loss of three wickets in the last session of play.