Unbeaten centuries by Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put India in total control of the second Test against Australia with the hosts taking stumps on Day Two at 311 for one, with a lead of 74 runs.
After a dawdling, watchful start to the innings following Virender Sehwag's (6) early fall, the duo picked up the pace in the second session, and by the time the day's play came to an end, they were cruising along at a rate of over four runs an over. The Australians, who had started the day on a high with Sehwag's early wicket, slowly lost their drive and confidence like a popped balloon losing air, as they were sent on a fruitless leather chase by the two Indian batsmen.
Sehwag fell in the sixth over of the day, which means that the duo batted almost the entire day in the sweltering heat at Hyderabad. However, it seemed as if they were getting fresher every passing minute as the boundaries started leaking and by the end of the day, with a significant lead considering the wickets in hand, they have given India a strong chance of notching a thumping innings win.
The near-capacity Sunday crowd at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, most of whom were provided no shade whatsoever from the scorching March sun, shared their team's swagger and never lost voice throughout the six hours of play.
Peter Siddle (one for 51) got the lone wicket of the 90 drudging, unproductive overs put in by the Australians today. It wasn't the worst of starts that they got of to, as they gave away just 49 runs to India in the first session. However, Vijay and Pujara upped the ante in the post-lunch session, scoring at above three runs an over, up from the morning session rate of under two. The boundaries increased drastically; India had hit just six in the first two hours, but added 15 fours and one six to their sheet post lunch.
Vijay was the first to reach a fifty — his third in Tests — and got there with a heave straight down the ground for six off Xavier Doherty. His half-century took 141 balls including seven other boundaries. Vijay was timing the ball to the tee and his footwork was as nimble as a cat's; his cover drives, especially, were a treat to watch as he neared three figures. The Chennai lad was under some pressure going into this Test, having failed in both innings in the first, and responded brilliantly.
Pujara, then, limped his way to a gutsy second Test fifty with an exquisite cover drive off debutant Glenn Maxwell. The 25-year-old's injury concerns with his knee are well documented and the Saurashtra batsman seemed to have aggravated something there when he dived into his crease to avoid a run-out in the first session. He was seen hobbling while running between the wickets and seemed to be in some pain. But the youngster hung in there with Vijay as the duo's partnership crossed the 100-run mark.
Michael Clarke, perhaps, missed a trick when he brought on the second spinner, Maxwell, only in the 47th over, which was much after Vijay and Pujara had settled in. Clarke then had Maxwell and a grunting Doherty to bowl in tandem as the last throw of the dice to unsettle the two Indians, but they stuck on till the tea break and put India in command at 160 for one.
Pujara did not waste too much time in notching up his fourth Test hundred after tea. He took just 37 balls to race from his score of 73 at tea to three figures as he won the contest with his partner on who reaches the landmark first. When Pujara was on 98, Vijay smacked Xavier Doherty for a six and four on consecutive deliveries to jump fro 80 to 90. But in the end, Pujara got there first with a late dab off Glenn Maxwell towards third man as he hobbled across for two.
It was a fantastic innings played through the barrier of pain, and what makes the effort even more special is his conversion rate so far in his short career. In 10 matches, Pujara has one fifty compared to his four tons, which speaks volumes of his efficiency in converting the fifties into big ones.
Vijay soon joined his batting partner on the honours list for the Test as he brought up his second hundred against Australia. The 28-year-old got to his hundred by charging down the track against Doherty and lofting him to the long-off fence.
The pair plundered the Australians even more in the third session and scored 151 runs, including 22 boundaries and two sixes, one of which got Pujara to his 150.
The Australians looked lost and helpless at the end of the day, with skipper Clarke pictured several times with his face down, wearing an expression of surrender. They say miracles do happen in the world of sport; Australia will need one of the biggest if they are to get a result in this match.
Brief Scores: Australia 237 for 9 dec. (Michael Clarke 91, Matthew Wade 68; Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 33, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3 for 53) trail India 311 for 1 (Murali Vijay 129*, Cheteshwar Pujara 162*; Peter Siddle 1 for 51) by 74 runs.
First Published: March 3, 2013, 4:36 pm