Kohli hails Pujara, quicks after Adelaide cliffhanger

Kohli's team claims a deserved 31-run victory on day five at Adelaide Oval to become the first Indian side to win a test series-opener on Australian soil in 71 years of touring.
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Kohli hails Pujara, quicks after Adelaide cliffhanger
Reuters

India's players, including captain Virat Kohli (right), celebrate after they defeated Australia on day five of the first test match  at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide, Australia, on Monday

Virat Kohli hailed the impact of man-of-the-match Cheteshwar Pujara in India's breakthrough first test victory over Australia on Monday and paid tribute to his pace attack for staying patient with the match on a knife-edge.

Kohli's team claimed a deserved 31-run victory on day five at Adelaide Oval to become the first Indian side to win a test series-opener on Australian soil in 71 years of touring.

India's superior batting proved decisive, with Pujara scoring 123 to rescue India's first innings before adding 71 in the second that helped set Australia a chase of 323 for victory.

"Priceless from Pujara, we were down and out at lunch on day one," said skipper Kohli after India's first test match win in Australia in 10 years.

"His grit and determination brought us back in it ... We did not let up again for four days."

Australia began the day with six wickets in the shed and holding genuine hope of chasing down the 323 required on a fifth-day wicket that held few demons.

But Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah removed Travis Head (14) and Shaun Marsh (60), Australia's last two specialist batsmen, in the morning to slow the home side's chase.

Stubborn tail-end partnerships made the game interesting for the sparse crowd but Bumrah and Mohammed Shami broke through for key wickets before spinner Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Josh Hazlewood to seal victory at the end of the extended middle session.

India's pace trio have been rated the nation's best in years, and Kohli said their ability to sustain pressure on Australia's batsmen underlined their maturity.

"That’s a very positive sign," he said. "We’ve not been able to sustain that pressure for long enough in the past.

"They’re fitter, have more pace in the ball now for longer periods and they understand that their job at certain times is just to contain.

"I think with four bowlers picking up 20 wickets in a test match away from home, especially with a ball that does not offer you so much, is something that we can proud of.

"But as I said we need to build on this, we can't be happy with one test match."

Drought-breaking win

Rishabh Pant, meanwhile, had a world record in his grasp as he helped India to the drought-breaking win but he had to settle for a share of it.

The 21-year-old Pant equaled the test record for wicketkeepers with 11 catches in India's victory, gloving six in Australia's first innings and five in the second to join former England 'keeper Jack Russell and South Africa's AB de Villiers.

Pant could have broken the record had he not dropped Nathan Lyon late in Australia's second innings, after diving full-stretch to his right.

He has now taken 31 catches in six tests, alleviating pressure after his place in the side had been under heavy scrutiny.

The left-hander models his aggressive batting on Australia great Adam Gilchrist, whose best haul in a match during his 96-test career was 10 catches. Pant's dashing batting was on display in India's second innings, where he made a whirlwind 28 off 16 balls — including 18 in one over — but his dismissal triggered a collapse of five wickets for 25 runs in 10 overs. That left Australia needing 323 for victory, which was unlikely but not impossible.

"We don't want to take the fearlessness away from his game," India assistant coach Sanjay Bangar said of Pant's approach to the game. "I think with time he will learn to mix caution with aggression. For someone who is just starting his career, he is exciting."

Behind the stumps, Pant complemented India's bowling attack which held off Australia's late comeback.

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