Record-breaking debutant Shikhar Dhawan (185 not out) pummeled the Australian attack into submission on Day Three of the third Test as India took stumps at 283 for no loss. Dhawan hit the fastest century on debut as he took India to within 125 runs of Australia’s first-innings total of 408 all out.
There are quite a few pretty sights in and around the tri-city of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, but probably none could match up to Dhawan’s delicate, yet fluid strokeplay. His pull-shots and the follow-through were a purist’s joy and his cover drives begged for applause.
Out of Dhawan’s 185 not out off 168 deliveries, 144 runs came off boundaries, including a whopping 33 fours and two sixes. Among the 33 hits to the fence, almost all were along the ground. In his first Test appearance, the 27-year-old looked like a veteran as he toyed with the Australian attack.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty was picked for special treatment by the new Delhi dasher as he was hit for 46 runs of just 30 balls, including seven boudaries and a six. One would wonder, after witnessing such an annihilation at Mohali — where were India hiding this guy?
That Dhawan had to play 81 First-Class matches, score 5679 runs and hit 16 centuries for this chance seems rather baffling now, and rather ironic considering who he replaced in the Indian team. Virender Sehwag had also opened his Test account with a century in Bloemfontein in 2001, and it looks like the baton has been passed on.
Murali Vijay, fresh from a confidence-boosting 162 in Hyderabad, provided able support to his new opening partner. His steady, composed innings of 83 not out came off 181 balls at a strike-rate under 50, much unlike Dhawan, who scored at a rate above 100. To Vijay’s credit, he did not get carried away seeing Dhawan’s flourish and stuck to his natural, industrious game.
Australia would have thought they were in a good position after posting 408 on the board. Steven Smith (92) and Mitchell Starc (99), after resuming Australia’s innings on Day Three at 273 for seven, put on 97 runs for the eighth wicket, becoming another record to fall on the day. The stand surpassed the previous best of 73 between Shane Watson and Brett Lee for this wicket at the PCA Stadium.
Starc fell one run short of becoming the first Australian No 9 in 66 years, after Ray Lindwall, to hit a century. Though he missed out on a much-deserved hundred, Starc did enough to frustrate India along with Smith. The 23-year-old Starc hit 14 boundaries and faced 144 balls for his 99, before he was caught-behind by MS Dhoni off Ishant Sharma.
Smith was also impressive, and has given the Australian selectors enough to consider a long-term stint in the side. Coming back into the Test setup after more than two years in wilderness, Smith made it count with a career-best 92 that included 10 boundaries and a six.
Eight runs short of another deserved Australian century, Smith was scalped by Pragyan Ojha with some help from Dhoni, whose swift reflexes stumped the batsman in a flash.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 (Mitchell Starc 99, Steven Smith 92, Ed Cowan 86, David Warner 71; Ishant Sharma 3 for 72, Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 77) lead India 283 for no loss (Shikhar Dhawan 185*, Murali Vijay 83*) by 125 runs.