MS Dhoni's spectacular maiden double century took India 135 runs past Australia on the third day of the first Test against Australia. At stumps, India were 515 for eight with Dhoni unbeaten on 206.
It was supposed to be the Sachin Tendulkar show today at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. The Master Blaster was unbeaten on 71 overnight, and a huge crowd had turned up early Sunday morning to watch Tendulkar notch up a much-coveted Test ton.
However, the Little Master could add only 10 runs to his total before he was cleaned up by spinner Nathan Lyon within the first hour of play. Disappointment for the crowd? Maybe, a little, but they wouldn't have been too disappointed watching their IPL captain walk out at No 6.
India were 196 for four when Dhoni marked his guard. They still trailed Australia by just under 200 runs and, more importantly, had lost the wicket of the talismanic Tendulkar early.
While a charged up Australia gunned for another victim in the morning session, Dhoni survived a few good chances against Lyon and James Pattinson as he immediately looked to taking his usual risks. India were trying to increase their run rate after a rather slow start to the day and Dhoni knew only one way to go about his batting. The Indian captain soon launched a counter-attack on the Aussies as he brought up the 50-run stand with Virat Kohli (107) in no time.
The first hour of play had totally belonged to the visitors, who were aggressive and probing with their bowling. However, Kohli and Dhoni courageously provided a response following Tendulkar's fall. Kohli, in particular, was nicely getting to the pitch of the ball against Lyon and looked to have learned from Tendulkar's mistake, who was deceived by the spin off the rough. The pitch was not getting any easier to bat on and that made the partnership even more important for India.
The duo soaked in the pressure initially and then eventually countered by going about at a more than healthy rate, as the boundaries began to flow in. There was a point, after the second new ball was taken, when Dhoni raced from 44 off 57 balls to 72 from 71. Kohli brought up his fourth Test hundred in the process , and didn't look like stopping there. Dhoni, meanwhile, was swatting the bowlers all over the park from the other end. Relieved from the pressure of batting in the nineties, Kohli too decided to join in.
However, the 24-year-old didn't last long as Lyon snapped him up for 107 after lunch. Kohli tried to smack the off-spinner over mid-on, where Mitchell Starc intercepted to take a brilliant catch. It was Kohli's second ton is as many matches, after he scored one against England in the Nagpur Test. However, the disappointment was clear on his face as he walked back.
Ravindra Jadeja then joined his captain in a bid to take India past Australia's score as quickly as possible. While India's run rate dropped from a run-a-ball to around four runs per over after Kohli's dismissal, Dhoni was surging towards a spectacular century.
The 31-year-old raced into the nineties at a run-a-ball, before slightly slowing down his scoring rate. He looked set to reach his ton before tea, but for Jadeja getting his woodwork shattered by Pattinson for his fourth wicket of the innings.
Lyon wrapped up Ravichandran Ashwin (3) in the first over after tea, but even that didn't stop Dhoni from smashing Peter Siddle to the mid-wicket fence to bring up his sixth Test hundred. It was a swashbuckling innings laced with boundaries all over the park. And Dhoni wasn't done yet.
After losing three partners — Jadeja, Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh — rather quickly, he found much-needed support in the young debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar. While Dhoni did the scoring from one end, Bhuvneshwar did well fending off the Australian bowlers and rotating the strike. The Indian skipper soon went past the 150-mark and, thereby, got to his highest score in Test cricket. His previous best was 148 against Pakistan back in 2006, in only his fifth Test.
It wasn't long before the magical 200 came up, as India went along at near six-an-over. Dhoni had taken just 230 balls to reach there. Soon enough, the 100-run partnership between him and Bhuvneshwar was also brought up, with Dhoni making 79 of the runs.
When the umpires called stumps at 5pm, 30 minutes after the scheduled close of play, India's lead read 135 runs and Dhoni's score read 206 not out from 243 balls. This included a whopping 22 boundaries and five heaves into the stands.
The expected declaration hadn't come as the teams walked back after a long, hot day out in the middle at Chennai. Michael Clarke's men, who had all but been murdered by Dhoni and Kohli, would only hope it comes early Monday morning.
Brief Scores: Australia 380 (Michael Clarke 130, Moises Henriques 68, David Warner 59; Ravichandran Ashwin 7 for 103) trail India 515 for 8 (MS Dhoni 206*, Virat Kohli 107, Sachin Tendulkar 81; James Pattinson 4 for 89) by 135 runs.