IND v BAN, 1st Test: Pujara, Iyer smash fifties, carry India to 278/6 despite Taijul three-fer (Ld)

Cheteshwar Pujara and Shreyas Iyer smashed half-centuries to lead India’s recovery from 48/3 to 278/6 at stumps on day one of first Test against Bangladesh at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, here on Wednesday.

In the first session, Bangladesh had taken out Shubman Gill, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli to reduce India to 48/3 in 19.3 overs. Pujara and Rishabh Pant (46) led the initial recovery for India through a counter-attacking 64-run stand.

But once Pant fell in the second session, Pujara joined hands with Iyer to lead another rescue act for India through a solid 149-run stand for the fifth wicket. While Pujara was firm as a rock, Iyer was aggressive after a tentative start and had plenty of luck on his side.

Though Pujara would fall ten runs short of his century as left-arm spinner Taijul Islam took him out to complete his three-wicket haul after beating him several times in the day, Iyer remained unbeaten on 82 off 169 balls on an absorbing day of Test cricket.

Bangladesh, despite getting six wickets and Taijul being their standout bowler, would be wondering how the day would have been if they hadn’t dropped Pujara and Iyer on 12 and 67 respectively.

As Pant walked in to bat after being promoted to number five to counter Taijul, India were in trouble at 48/3 in 19.3 overs. His arrival brought a flurry of runs for India, through his trademark pull and sweep off the spinners.

When Taijul flighted the ball, Pant danced down the pitch to smash him over wide long-on for six to throw him slightly off his control on line and length. As he and Mehidy Hasan Miraz gave width, Pant was quick to cut and guide the deliveries through the off-side for boundaries.

Post lunch, wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan dropped Pujara’s catch off Ebadot Hossain despite him making a full stretch to his right. Pant carried on his good work from the first session, nailing pull and slash off backfoot, before slog-sweeping Mehidy over deep mid-wicket for six, his 50th maximum in the format.

On the very next ball, Mehidy had the last laugh as Pant went back to cut the ball, but the bottom edge took out his off-stump bail, as he fell four runs short of his half-century. Iyer had a nervy start, evading slip through an edge rolling for a boundary. Hossain was troubling Pujara as Bangladesh applied brakes on the run-flow.

But Pujara broke the shackles by punching nicely off Khaled Ahmed, followed by Iyer lofting over mid-on and cutting through point off Mehidy. After a quiet period, Iyer lofted inside-out over cover on a flighted ball from Shakib Al Hasan, before closing the session with a gorgeous drive through cover to get the second session in India’s favour.

Pujara began the final session with a handsome cut through cover on width offered by Hossain. Taijul troubled Iyer, but he brought out an authoritative drive off the front-foot against Ebadot. Pujara cashed on Taijul’s short balls to hit successive fours, first of which got him his fifty.

Three overs later, Iyer pulled Shakib through mid-wicket to notch up his fifty. After Taijul beat him on the outer edge, Iyer danced down the pitch on the very next ball to lift over wide mid-on for four, before whipping Mehidy with disdain over mid-wicket.

Pujara pulled and flicked, used his feet well and was supple in his wrists usage to surge ahead as luck started to favour India. Iyer was dropped on 67 by Ebadot at deep mid-wicket and in the fourth over after taking the new ball, he bowled him after beating him on outer edge. But the bails despite being lit had not been dislodged.

Bangladesh had success in the next over as Taijul turned it just enough from middle-and-off stump line to beat the outside edge of Pujara and knock off the off-stump, sending him back for 90 off 203 balls.

Mehidy followed it up with a wicket on the last ball of the day by trapping Axar Patel lbw, going past the inner edge to hit him plumb in front of stumps on the back pad as Bangladesh ended day one on a high.

In the morning, Rahul and Gill latched on to anything loose to share a 41-run opening stand. With no boundaries for almost seven overs, Gill tried to break the shackles with a pre-mediated paddle sweep, but was caught at leg-slip off Taijul, departing for 20.

Five overs later, Rahul opened the face of the bat to steer a length ball from Khaled Ahmed but chopped on. In the next over, Kohli tried to flick through leg-side on backfoot, but was trapped right in front of middle stump by a sharp turning in delivery from Taijul. But Pant, Pujara and Iyer ensured India recovered well on a pitch where turn and variable bounce were on display from day one.

Brief Scores: India 278/6 in 90 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 90, Shreyas Iyer 82 not out; Taijul Islam 3/84, Mehidy Hasan Miraz 2/71) against Bangladesh

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