After two days of equilibrium, the first Test between India and Australia finally swung in one particular direction. At the M Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, a superlative counter-attacking unbeaten double hundred from skipper MS Dhoni tilted the scales in favour of his side on day three.
India began the day on their overnight score of 182 for three with Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli taking guard first thing in the morning. But the proceedings were slow as Australia put on pressure from the word go. They were in search of a breakthrough but the batsmen also knew that they needed to tide this spell in order to score big runs. As a result, there were four consecutive maiden overs bowled and very few runs came through in the first hour.
Then Nathan Lyon bowled Tendulkar off a sharp turner. In fact the Master had covered the length of the ball, but not enough to counter the spin imparted by the rough marks and was bowled through the gate, much to the dejection of the Sunday crowd at the Chepauk. He scored 81 runs, off 159 balls, with seven fours, adding only ten runs to his overnight total.
In strode Dhoni and started playing shots from the word go. It was needed at that moment. If India had lost another wicket soon, the match situation could have turned. Instead Kohli matched him shot for shot and by lunch time, the pace of scoring had gone up, with 81 runs coming in the session.
Dhoni was scoring at will and had no trouble finding any gaps. With Kohli he put on 128 runs for the fifth wicket, which was their second century stand in two Tests, and took the game away from Australia. Kohli had been watchful early on but now started playing more freely, going on to score his fourth Test hundred. Just when it looked he was all set for a big one, he scooped one to Mitchell Starc and gave Lyon his second wicket. Kohli made 107 runs off 206 balls, with fifteen fours and one six.
From thereon in, it was a one-man show as Dhoni took complete charge. This despite the small matter of Ravindra Jadeja (16) struggling to find his bearings and getting bowled comically shouldering arms to a near-full delivery. India’s tail was having trouble wagging as R Ashwin (3) too departed shortly thereafter. Moises Henriques got onto the bowling charts when he bowled Harbhajan Singh (11). At that time, the score read 406 for eight.
It brought forth Bhuvneshwar Kumar who boasts of a First-Class hundred and eleven other fifties. And together with Dhoni he put up an unbroken 109-run stand for the ninth wicket. He scored only 16 of them as the Indian skipper hammered his way to a maiden double hundred. The crowd was brought to its feet as he smashed 22 fours and five massive sixes to the second highest Test score by a wicket-keeper, belonging to Andy Flower who made 232.
Darren Pattinson was Australia’s most successful bowler with figures of four for 89, while Lyon (three for 182) and Henriques (one for 48) were his strike partners on a tough day.
Select quotes from the day:
Virat Kohli, on his innings and MS Dhoni: "I am disappointed the way I got out. I did the hard work and settled down in the morning, but should have got a big score today. But I will learn from my mistakes and will score in the future whenever I get a chance.
"You can’t really say much about Dhoni’s innings. There is nothing to say really, after such an innings. He has taken the game away from Australia and he batted with such complete control, scoring at will, and not many batsmen in world cricket can do that. For a guy who kept wickets for 380 runs scored by the opposition and then scored a double hundred himself, he is pretty fit. Not to mention he does this for India in all three formats which is very difficult."
Matthew Wade, on a tough day for Australia: "Indian batsmen showed us the way how to play on such a wicket. Of course we expected tough days on this tour and today is one such. To prepare for them comes down to each individual how to do it. It is perhaps more important for the bowlers because they need to have a plan b or c. The pitch is going to get worse but we need to be positive, because we firmly believe that we can save this Test. Tomorrow will be crucial, whenever we bat, not just for the match but also for the remainder of the series."
© Cricket World 2013
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