Tendulkar masterpiece steers India

Opener Murali Vijay produces maiden Test century as Dhonis men make strong reply

Tendulkar masterpiece steers India

The right-hander has been given less credit for either finishing off matches or saving them for India than he deserves, but it’s anybody’s guess what course this match would have taken had he not come up with one of his masterpieces here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Monday.

Tendulkar (191 batting, 475m, 319b, 19x4, 2x6), who batted through the middle day of the second Test, brought up his 49th century and along with opener Murali Vijay (139, 310b, 14x4, 2x6) ensured that India came within touching distance of Australia’s first-innings total of 478 all out.

When bad light put an end to the day’s proceedings, India had reached 435 for five, a mere 43 runs behind, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni (11 batting) giving Tendulkar company. Going by the way the Mohali Test shaped out, it is indeed too early to predict the outcome of this match!

Praiseworthy
No praise can be too high for the way Tendulkar and Vijay went about their task for the first two sessions. There were periods of aggression, inevitably followed by pockets of quiet progress, but never during their close to six and a half hours vigil at the centre did Tendulkar and Vijay allow the Australian attack to dictate terms.

If they went after the visitors’ attack, it was their call and if they decided to go slow, it wasn’t because the bowlers were difficult to score off. The duo switched gears at will and with effortless ease.

Tendulkar began the day by picking up two fours to fine-leg off Nathan Hauritz, who would have realised why even a bowler of the quality of Shane Warne found it hard to succeed against Indian batsmen. The off-spinner went wicketless, conceding 153 runs in 39 overs and didn’t come close to even posing a genuine threat. If this is the plight of the ‘best’ Australian spinner, the pity the rest. The pacemen didn’t have a great day, either though Ben Hilfenhaus should consider himself not be amongst wickets.

Tendulkar was sublime in the first hour of the morning, pulling Mitchell Johnson and cutting and driving Shane Watson with authority. Sixty runs came at a run-a-minute before Tendulkar and Vijay went into a shell. But the Mumbaikar made sure he notched up his three-figure score before lunch by slog-sweeping Hauritz twice over the long-on fence.
        
Confident
Vijay was confident without being in the zone of Tendulkar, appearing increasingly nervous in the 90s. But that was only understandable. Playing as Gautam Gambhir’s replacement, the right-hander more than lived up to the expectations as he batted India to the shores of safety in the company of his idol. The Tamil Nadu batsman, who survived a run out chance on 49 and a close shout for leg before off Hilfenhaus on 77, took an eternity to move from 90 to his maiden ton.

His 90th run came off the 190th ball faced, and it needed another 44 balls for him to collect his next 10 runs. One must say it was worth the wait, both from an individual and the team’s point of view.

The previous two days had seen wicketless first sessions followed by collapses in the post-lunch period. India, however, bucked the trend on the third day as Tendulkar and Vijay sent the Aussies on a leatherhunt.

It wasn’t before the 10th over of the final session that Vijay departed, nicking Johnson behind the wickets. By that time, though, the right-hander had raised a mammoth 308-run partnership with Tendulkar upon which India built their edifice.

Debutant Cheteshwar Pujara lasted just three balls while Suresh Raina perished after a 43-ball 32 (5x4) to a poor stroke with stumps imminent. Tendulkar, however, stood firm without ever spurning scoring opportunities.

In a chanceless, near flawless stint lasting nearly eight hours, Tendulkar had stroked his way to the verge of a sixth double ton, one that will equal Virender Sehwag’s Indian record.   

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