Agarwal, Pujara hit half centuries as India dig in
Published: 11:00 am Jan 03, 2019
India win toss and choose to bat
Agarwal and Pujara hit half centuries
Tourists need draw to clinch series
SYDNEY: Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara scored contrasting half centuries as India remained on track for a first series victory in Australia on Thursday, reaching 177 for two at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final test.
Opener Agarwal holed out for 77 going for a third six halfway through the session but the unflappable Pujara was 61 not out with his captain Virat Kohli unbeaten on 23 in a partnership of 51 at the break.
The tourists, 2-1 up after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne and a loss in Perth, need only to avoid defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground to secure their breakthrough test series triumph.
Kohli gave them the best possible start when he won the toss and sent the Australians in to bowl on a wicket with a tinge of green but no sign of any significant movement.
India have not lost a test match when Kohli has won the toss -- winning 18 and drawing three -- but more important was the opportunity to bat the Australians out of the game as they did in Melbourne.
Australian quick Josh Hazlewood struck early to remove KL Rahul for nine, the opener resuming his poor run of form after being dropped after the Perth defeat and recalled in place of the absent Rohit Sharma.
That only brought Pujara to the crease to join Agarwal and the pair put on 116 for the second wicket with the opener taking much of the scoring load in the face of some hostile short bowling from the Australian pacemen.
Showing the same calm and control as he did when scoring 76 in his maiden test innings in Melbourne, Agarwal brushed off blows to his elbow and helmet as Mitchell Starc gave him a thorough going over.
The 27-year-old reached the half-century mark with a swat of the ball through the covers which substitute fielder Peter Siddle's foot helped find the boundary.
He immediately started playing more expansive strokes, highlighted by two sixes to long-on that helped take his partnership with Pujara past the 100-run mark.
An attempt at a third was pushing his luck against an experienced campaigner like Nathan Lyon and the off-spinner delivered a slightly shorter ball which Agarwal skied to long-on fielder Starc.
Kohli announced his arrival at the crease with a four punched through extra cover but Pujara looked in no hurry, facing 134 balls for his 21st test half century and fourth of the series.