HYDERABAD, India (AFP) — Cheteshwar Pujara celebrated his comeback with a maiden century to help India post 307-5 on opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Hyderabad yesterday.
The 24-year-old, who played his last Test in January 2011, cracked a solid 119 not out in India's first match after the retirement of veterans Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
India were under pressure at 125-3 after losing experienced Virender Sehwag (47), Gautam Gambhir (22) and Sachin Tendulkar (19), but Pujara and Virat Kohli (58) propped up the innings with a 125-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was unbeaten on 29 at stumps.
Pujara, who replaced Dravid at number three, looked comfortable against both pace and spin during his 226-ball knock which contained one six and 15 fours.
"I am really happy. I wanted to score a hundred in my debut Test but I missed it, so I am really satisfied that I got my maiden hundred now. I knew I could bat at number three and my preparation was up to the mark," said Pujara.
"I don't think I can replace Rahul Dravid because he is such a legend. He has scored more than 10,000 runs in both the formats. It's impossible to replace him. I just wanted to play my natural game."
Pujara played some aggressive shots after completing his half-century, hitting left-arm paceman Trent Boult for three fours in an over and smashing part-time spinner Kane Williamson over wide long-on for the first six of the match.
Pujara, playing only his fourth Test, reached his hundred with a single to fine-leg off paceman James Franklin, much to the delight of nearly 15,000 spectators.
The 23-year-old Kohli, playing his ninth Test, cracked eight fours in his fourth Test half-century before falling to a poor shot, caught at second slip by Martin Guptill while trying to cut paceman Chris Martin.
He gave a chance on 46 when he edged off-spinner Jeetan Patel, but lone-slip Ross Taylor failed to hold on to it. It went for a four, helping the Indian to reach his half-century.
India lost one more wicket when Suresh Raina, who replaced Laxman in the middle order, was caught behind off Patel after making three.
Boult had Gambhir caught behind and then got a big wicket when he bowled Tendulkar, who was playing his first Test after becoming a member of parliament.
Tendulkar could only add seven more runs to his lunch score of 12 before he was surprised by a Boult delivery that came in sharply. He hit just two fours in his slow 62-ball innings.
The world's leading scorer in both Tests and one-dayers with an unprecedented 100 international centuries, the 39-year-old Tendulkar was in April nominated to the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, for his contribution to the nation.