Dhawan makes a grand entry

Dhawan makes a grand entry

Cricket Third Test: Indian opener smashes the fastest century by a debutant to push Australia back to the wall

Dhawan makes a grand entry

On the eve of the third Test, Shikhar Dhawan said he had been advised by Virender Sehwag, whom the left-hander replaced in the side, to play his natural game. But the way the southpaw played his innings, it was difficult to say whether he was playing his own game or Sehwag’s.

Betraying few nerves, the Delhi batsman demolished the Australian attack en route the fastest century by a debutant as India regained the ground they had conceded in the morning session through some defensive field setting and an equally unimaginative bowling.

Resuming at their bed-time score of 273/7, Australia thrived on the near-century efforts from their overnight batsmen Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc to post a healthy total of 408 all out here at the PCA Stadium on Saturday.

The Indian batsmen, however, more than made up for it finishing the third day on an impressive 283 with both their openers -- Dhawan (185 batting) and Vijay (83 batting) – intact. The hosts now trail Australia by 125 runs but if they continue to bat the way they have so far, extracting a result from this rain-truncated match isn’t a distant possibility.

As well as Smith (92) and Starc (99) batted, never allowing the attack to settle down in the morning, the Indian bowlers were also guilty of providing some easy scoring opportunities. The pitch too appeared to have eased down a lot as the spinners failed to purchase the same amount of turn they had managed on the second day.

Smith and Starc added 97 runs for the eighth wicket to push the tourists close to 350 while the latter added another 51 runs for the ninth wicket with Nathan Lyon to take Australia past 400, the highest total for the visitors in five innings. The two batsmen fell on the cusp of well-deserved centuries but they would have gleefully taken those scores, highest for both, at the start of the match.

Stunning display

The bowlers’ problems got only magnified in the post-lunch session when Dhawan battered the Aussie attack into submission in a stunningly attacking display of batsmanship. After a hurriedly run single to open his Test account off the fourth ball he faced, Dhawan eased Peter Siddle through covers for his first boundary and the 27-year-old never relented thereafter.

He wasn’t the popular choice to be picked in the 11 after Sehwag’s exit -- there were many rooting for Ajinkya Rahane – but Dhawan justified his selection with a knock that will not be forgotten soon.

Besides rewriting numerous batting records, the Delhiite all but ensured that the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will return to India. Leading 2-0 in the four-match series, it will require no less than a miracle for Australia to square the series and retain the trophy. While the opener literally toyed with spinners, treating them like club-level bowlers, he hardly looked in any sort of discomfort against the pace of Starc and Siddle.                            

In fact, Dhawan began his riot act by pulling and driving all three pacers, the third being Moises Henriques, before laying into the slower bowlers. Offie Lyon, left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty and leg-spinner Smith were hammered all around the park as Australia’s hopes of staging a comeback went up in smoke.

Viewed in isolation, Vijay’s knock was by no means a slow one but such was the ferocity of Dhawan’s innings that the right-hander appeared pedestrian in comparison. To his credit, though, the Tamil Nadu batsman didn’t get into a race with his junior partner.

With Dhawan in full flow, Vijay took his foot off the accelerator and allowed the partnership to develop into the biggest opening stand by India against Australia, bettering the previous one (192) held by Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan in Mumbai in 1979.

Admittedly, the conditions were conducive for bowlers but the Aussies made things more difficult for themselves by some poor bowling. There were full-tosses galore and they often slipped the ball either down the leg or provided too much width on the off for Dhawan to crash them through covers or backward point.

So harmless were they on the day that Dhawan even employed reverse and paddle sweeps. He raced to his 100 in just 85 balls and slowed down a bit in the final session but still managed knock off his next 85 in 82 balls to leave the visitors a ragged lot.

Score board

AUSTRALIA (I Innings; O/n: 273/7):

Smith st Dhoni b Ojha    .92
(235m, 185b, 10x4, 1x6)
Starc c Dhoni b Ishant    .99
(146m, 44b, 14x4)
Lyon (not out)    ....9
(64m, 44b, 1x4)
Doherty lbw Ashwin    ...5
(12m, 12b)

Extras (B-8, LB-12, NB-3)    23

Total (all out, 141.5 overs)..............408

Fall of wickets: 1-139 (Warner), 2-139 (Clarke), 3-151 (Hughes), 4-198 (Cowan), 5-244 (Haddin), 6-244 (Henriques), 7-251 (Siddle), 8-348 (Smith), 9-399 (Starc).

Bowling: Bhuvneshwar 9-0-44-0 (nb-2), Ishant 30-8-72-3 (nb-1), Ashwin 43.5-9-97-2, Ojha 28-5-98-2, Jadeja 31-7-77-3.

INDIA (I Innings):

Vijay (batting).........................................83
(243m, 181b, 10x4, 2x6)
Dhawan (batting)................................185
(243m, 168b, 33x4, 2x6)

Extras (B-5, LB-9, NB-1)    .15

Total (for no loss, 58 overs).............283

Bowling: Starc 11-1-46-0, Peter Siddle 12-3-35-0 (nb-1), Moises Henriques 7-0-38-0, Nathan Lyon 15-3-69-0, Xavier Doherty 10-2-57-0, Steven Smith 3-0-24-0.

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