Cricket: Pujara's 119 puts brake on NZ start

By Kris Shannon

In the build-up to the first test against India, several New Zealand cricketers spoke of their relief at avoiding the tough task of breaking down The Wall.

Rahul Dravid retired earlier this year after a spending a career blunting bowling attacks but, unfortunately for New Zealand, his replacement showed few cracks in his defence.

Cheteshwar Pujara, in just his fourth test, stroked a brilliant unbeaten century on the first day in Hyderabad, guiding India through to 307-5 at stumps.

If it weren't for Pujara, 24, the day may have belonged to the tourists. As it was, his innings of 119 not out left New Zealand aiming for quick wickets tomorrow morning to avoid being batted out of the test.

"The team believes that we're still well balanced," Trent Boult, who picked up a pair of wickets, said. "It would have been nice to grab one more wicket but it was a relatively even day."

Pujara's maiden test century combined belligerence with beauty, notching 16 boundaries and giving only one half-chance on 60 which Daniel Flynn was unable to grasp at short leg.

His 125-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Virat Kohli - the man tasked with filling the boots of local hero and the recently-retired VVS Laxman - turned the match in India's favour after the Kiwi seamers provided a promising opening to the tour.

"[Pujara] had an awesome innings. He was very patient and played well," Boult said. "They batted well. India played a very attacking brand of cricket at the start."

Heading into the match at Rajiv Ghandi Stadium, new coach Mike Hesson would have spent considerable hours formulating plans to negate that attacking style and cope with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar.

In the end, that wasn't the hard part. The New Zealand seam attack - five strong but with room in the playing XI for only three - removed the hosts' three most senior batsmen relatively cheaply thanks to threatening spells by Boult and Doug Bracewell

Boult, 23, earned his selection ahead of Northern Districts' teammate Tim Southee and the newly-naturalised Neil Wagner, and he quickly justified his place.

Hesson spoke before the match of Boult's ability to swing the ball being advantageous in overcast conditions, and he soon made that threat known to the hosts' top order.

He managed to find Gambhir's outside edge after pitching the ball outside off and getting it to swing in, before repeating the dose to beat Tendulkar all ends up.

Boult was four months old when Tendulkar began what has become one of the great cricketing careers, and Boult's five test caps fall slightly shy of the 189 racked up by the Little Master.

But that gap in age and experience counted for nothing today, with Boult sneaking through one of the most impenetrable defences cricket has seen to knock over Tendulkar's middle stump.

In his five tests, Boult has shown an ability to dismiss batsmen of the highest quality, and he can now add Tendulkar to a list of scalps already boasting Chris Gayle, Jacques Kallis and Mike Hussey.

Boult's bravado was ably backed by Bracewell who, in a menacing couple of overs to Sehwag, found the outside edge twice. The first flew between Kruger van Wyk and Ross Taylor in what should have been the keeper's catch, before the second was snaffled by Mark Guptill at second slip.

The rest of the New Zealand attack was blunted for the opening two sessions, but the industry of Chris Martin and energy of Jeetan Patel eventually earned both wickets to salvage something their side when the hosts were pulling away.

SCOREBOARD

INDIA

First innings, stumps, day one

G Gambhir c van Wyk b Boult 22
V Sehwag c Guptill b Bracewell 47
C Pujara not out 119
S Tendulkar b Boult 19
V Kohli c Guptill b Martin 58
S Raina c van Wyk b JS Patel 3
MS Dhoni not out 29
Extras (6b, 3lb, 1w)10
Total (for 5 wkts, 87 overs) 307

Fall: 49, 77, 125, 250, 260.

Bowling: C Martin 18-2-60-1, T Boult 16-2-63-2, D Bracewell 10.4-1-53-1, J Franklin 11.2-0-33-0, J Patel 24-6-58-1, K Williamson 7-0-31-0

- APNZ

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