HYDERABAD, India - Cheteshwar Pujara celebrated his comeback with a maiden century to help India post 5-307 on opening day of the first Test against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Thursday.
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 3-125 after losing 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 No.3, 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.
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.
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.
"It was special to get Tendulkar out. It was obviously a prize wicket and it is something I will always remember," said Boult.
"The game is still balanced. The first hour tomorrow morning will be a big opportunity to go at the batsmen and get a couple of wickets."