• Pujara, Agarwal give India good start

    Cheteshwar Pujara brought up his third century of the series as India powered themselves into a strong position on day one of the fourth Test at Sydney.

    India left veteran paceman Ishant Sharma out of the squad due to injury, and brought in Kuldeep Yadav as the second spinner in a four-man bowling attack.

    KL Rahul returned to the top of the order in the absence of Rohit Sharma, who went home following the birth of his child, with Hanuma Vihari dropping back into the middle order after a stint at the top in the third Test at the MCG.

    Tim Paine announced that Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh were left out of the side defeated at the MCG, with Marnus Labushchagne and Peter Handscomb drafted back into the side.

    The South African-born Labuschagne has scored just 81 runs in his previous two Tests, but the selectors clearly are looking at him to contribute with his leggies on the Sydney pitch, having taken seven wickets in his first two cracks in the Baggy Green.

    KL Rahul got the innings off to a flying start with two early boundaries in the first eight balls of the day, before snicking one to first slip with his score on nine to leave India on 10-1 in the second over.

    Fellow opener Mayank Agarwal followed up his excellent Test debut at the MCG (where he scored 76 and 42 as India won the Test by 137 runs) by putting together a well-played 77 off 112 balls (7×4, 2×6) before he holed out to Mitchell Starc at long-on off Nathan Lyon.

    Agarwal departed with the score on 126-2, having shared a superb second-wicket partnership of 116 off 195 balls with Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s Player of the Series to date. Pujara had already scored two centuries and a 71 in the previous three Tests in the Border-Gavaskar series.

    Pujara and Virat Kohli shared a 54-run stand for the third wicket off 113 balls before Kohli glanced a ball down the legside off Josh Hazlewood, Tim Paine completing the catch to leave India on 180-3.

    Having made three starts in the series without getting beyond 50, Ajinkya Rahane dug deep in scoring 18 off 55 balls as India moved to 228-4. Pujara went to his 18th Test century with a leg-glance to fine leg off Starc with the 199th ball of his innings (13×4).

    India ended the day with the upper hand, having scored 303-4, and will surely be favouring their chances of pushing for a 3-1 series win with Australia set to bat last on the Sydney wicket that always brings a smile to the face of spin bowlers on the last few days of a Test.

    Pujara ended the day undefeated on 130 off 250 balls with 16, while Vihari was looking solid on 39 off 58 balls (5×4) as he looks to chase down his top Test score of 56 from his debut against England at The Oval.

    Hazlewood ended with figures of 2-51 from 20 overs, with Starc (1-75) and Lyon (1-88) after a tough first day for the hosts.


    Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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    Simon Lewis