Ultra-light synthetic fibres go into the making of modern-day batting pads, but try telling that to Sachin Tendulkar who was forced to keep them on for 85 overs on Sunday. Two 20-somethings made the maestro ‘wait’ all day long — leaving him with stiff legs, the 30,000-strong crowd restless and the Australians helpless. Tendulkar resorted to some stretching drills, the spectators went back with hope, but one wondered what Michael Clarke & Co would have done to recover from another round of spanking under the blazing sun.
Centurions Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay combined the retro with the ultra-modern on a hopelessly one-sided day of cricket, their amazing 294-run stand all but helping India bat Australia out of the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. For the record, the hosts ended the second day on 311 for the loss of (only) Virender Sehwag and 74 to the good. And given that the Tendulkars, Kohlis and Dhonis are to bat, this hillock could well grow into an insurmountable mountain peak on the morrow.
Resuming on 5/0, India lost Sehwag (6) in the fifth over of the morning, the struggling opener edging Peter Siddle to the wicketkeeper for another poor score. Since that 117 against England in Ahmedabad last November, the one-time ‘Nawab’ has scored just 163 runs in nine Test innings. A poor outing in the second innings here (if India are required to bat again, that is) and the Delhiite could join citymate Gautam Gambhir on the sidelines. Remember the selectors are to meet at the end of this Test.
Out walked Pujara to join hands with Vijay, the latter desperate to make amends after twin failures in last week’s Chennai Test. What followed was a throwback to the Gavaskar-Boycott era. The duo curbed their attacking instincts, choosing instead to negotiate the pace, bounce and verve with straight bats, smart leaves and the occasional boundary. So circumspect were Vijay and Pujara that they added as little as 49 runs in 28 overs.
India took lunch at 54/1 but you knew things were going to be different after the break. As expected, the batsmen broke free but it was Pujara who looked in a hurry. He smacked James Pattinson for three fours in an over, thereby closing in on his partner. Vijay, in no mood to be left behind, lofted Xavier Doherty for a six over mid-off to bring up only his third first-class fifty this season.
More than 40 overs gone and still no sign of Glenn Maxwell. There’s not much you can do but chase leather when a settled Indian pair is fed with spin from both ends. And that’s exactly what happened after Clarke introduced the off-spinning all-rounder in the 47th over. Pujara drove the debutant through the covers to bring up his half century and the 100-run stand. The duo ended the session on identical scores of 73 as India went into the tea break at 160/1.
If the first two sessions were about caution and aggression, respectively, the third was all about domination. Pujara started things off with a ferocious pull off Moises Henriques, following it up with a flick of Doherty. In no time, the he found himself in the 90s. Vijay added some drama to this ‘race’ by hitting Maxwell for a six and a four to move to 92. But despite suffering from cramps, it was Pujara who got there first, bringing up his fourth ton with a couple. Vijay bided his time before a loft over extra cover fetched him his second century in whites and also against Australia.
A clueless Clarke then brought on David Warner who ended up bowling ‘right-arm rubbish’. The part-time leggie started off with a half-tracker, which Pujara duly dismissed, before conceding two more fours. He was taken off right away. Pujara hadn’t played the hook since falling to the shot in the New Zealand series, but he did employ that stroke to bring up his 150 with a six over fine leg. Siddle was the bowler. The duo added 151 runs at more than five an over in the last session. They did offer a few half chances, but that was that. In all, Pujara hit 25 fours and Vijay 17. Add three sixes and you have 186 runs off boundaries! The partnership is already the highest by an Indian second-wicket pair against Australia.
Alas, Pujara, Vijay and the others will subject the visitors to more of the same on Monday.