MS Dhoni is a man of plans. A match-winning six in the World Cup final or a pulverising double hundred in two-and-a-half sessions may not ‘turn him on’, but a strategy gone right certainly will.
Turn the clock back to April 2, 2011, and you’ll remember he barely broke into a smile after sending the ball soaring into the Sachin Tendulkar Stand. The same man resembled a kid in an amusement park here on Monday. Here’s why. After bowling India out for 503, Australia had gotten off to a pretty decent start in the second dig. They were staring at a mammoth 266-run deficit, but openers Ed Cowan and David Warner didn’t let the pressure get to them. The southpaws shrugged off the rustiness, survived a chance each off Bhuvneshwar Kumar and brought up the 50-run partnership.
R Ashwin, persistently operating from round the wicket, went for a few. Midway into his 10th straight over, Dhoni urged him to alter the angle. Cowan defended the first and swept the next to long leg for a single. The very next delivery, Warner ended up painting an ugly portrait of himself. The ball had pitched outside leg; Warner went for the sweep, missed it altogether and saw the ball crash into the leg stump. Dhoni jumped with joy!
Two overs later, Ashwin tossed up one outside leg. Phil Hughes, who had gone eight deliveries on nought, fell into the same trap. Thanks to that blunder, Dhoni jumped with joy once again!
Two down for 56 and about half-an-hour left, Australia looked more than wobbly. But Cowan and Watson saw off the remaining overs as the visitors ended the third day of the second Test at 74/2. The visitors need to score 192 more to make India bat again. Earlier, Australia’s spinners finally came to the party, prising out the last six wickets for just 43 runs. It was a rather tame end to the Indian batting fest that had promised to yield much more.
Overnight batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara continued to pile on the runs, with the latter going to complete his second double hundred in Test cricket. Resuming on 311/1, India lost Vijay after Glenn Maxwell had him caught at short leg for a career-best 167. The partnership, India’s best for the second wicket, yielded 370.
Pujara got to the 200-landmark with a beautiful drive between mid-wicket and long-on off Maxwell, but his 415-minute stay at the crease ended when he hooked James Pattinson straight to long leg for 204.
Soon after lunch break, Tendulkar was adjudged caught behind, albeit in abnormal circumstances. After collecting a four off Pattinson, the maestro guided the next ball, pitched on leg, straight into the wicketkeeper’s gloves. The Aussies went up and umpire Marais Erasmus went upstairs to check if it was taken cleanly. The process followed was this: the TV umpire looked for the foot no-ball before zooming into the batsman to find out if he had nicked it. Only then did the camera pan towards Matthew Wade. Australia had ticked all the boxes and Tendulkar was gone.
Dhoni carried on from where he had left in Chennai, smashing Xavier Doherty for three consecutive boundaries. He raced to 44 at better than a run a ball before Maxwell had him caught at mid-off on the second attempt.
Ravindra Jadeja looked promising but was caught and bowled by Maxwell for 10. Doherty then struck twice in as many overs, sending back Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh. By now, the pitch had started doing things. Kohli became Maxwell’s fourth victim after he inside-edged one to backward short leg where Cowan took a blinder. Doherty claimed his third and India’s last by having Kumar stumped.