The openers had painted an all-too-depressing picture, one we are used to seeing of late. James Pattinson was at his ferocious best, making the ball talk like no bowler had or did on this pre-ordered dustbowl.
M Vijay b Pattinson 10. V Sehwag b Pattinson 2. India 12/2 in 5.2 overs. This, after Australia were bowled out for 380 in exactly four sessions.
The name Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar evokes more reverence than fear these days. Australia were happy to have “worked him out” during the course of their 4-0 whitewash Down Under.
At the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday, the batting legend ensured the Aussies didn’t have it all for themselves on Day Two of the series opener. Tendulkar first put Pattinson in his place, caressing the ball through cover, point and fine-leg for three boundaries in four deliveries. And once Michael Clarke took his trump card off the attack, Tendulkar displayed his guts, grit and panache in equal measure to help India end an intriguing day of Test cricket on a rather content note.
Tendulkar, whose last outing in white clothing on this ground had yielded a historic 103 not out, stitched crucial partnerships with Cheteshwar Pujara (44) and Virat Kohli (50 batting). In the process, he also scored a tenacious unbeaten 71 as India finished the day at 182/3, still 198 behind but with a sense of hope and not gloom.
Tendulkar added 93 with Pujara, who was not less dogged, before joining hands with Kohli. The duo came together after Pattinson came back for another piece of wood in his second — and last —spell of the day.
After that early surge, Tendulkar next hit a four off his 21st ball, a backfoot punch off Peter Siddle taking him to 19. On 37, he survived a huge leg-before appeal off Nathan Lyon. He was probably out, but like R Ashwin said of Clarke on Day One, such things ‘happen in cricket’. Lyon had a fruitless day, the offie going for 55 in 14 overs. So did the others.
Tendulkar brought up his fifty off the 80th ball he faced, driving Lyon to long-on for a single. He then cashed in on a freebie from Moises Henriques before collecting another one off Mitchell Starc in the fag end of the day. By now, he’d evoked the fear factor again.
Kohli was more positive, but that’s because Tendulkar shielded him early on. Kohli, edgy to begin with, eventually found his range and punished anything short, wide or full. The highlight of his 84-ball knock was a push through the on side in the 35th over, bowled by Siddle. That boundary took him to 16. He hit seven fours in all –– one more than Tendulkar –– and brought up his half century in the last over of the day.
Earlier, Clarke and the tail frustrated India throughout the extended first session, playing out as many as 38 overs for 64 runs. The skipper, who started the day on 103, went past Greg Chappell’s tally of 7,110 runs on his way to 130 before offering a steepler to Bhuvneshwar Kumar at long-off in the 25th over of the day. Ravindra Jadeja was the bowler who ended the 54-run stand for the eighth wicket.
Siddle, Clarke’s overnight partner, made a laboured 12 off 94 deliveries before becoming Harbhajan Singh’s first victim of the match. The 100-Test ‘hero’ eventually finished with figures of 1/87 off 25 overs. Slip fielder Virender Sehwag, who had dropped Clarke earlier in the day, held on to a simple offering from the tail-ender. India were again done in by a few blunders from umpire Kumar Dharmasena, whose reprieve to Clarke was well publicised.
Pattinson and Nathan Lyon batted out 13 overs before R Ashwin came back to claim his seventh, having Lyon acrobatically caught at leg slip by Kohli. Ashwin finished with career-best figures of 7/103 but no one in the Indian camp seemed too pleased after spending 135 minutes in the Chennai heat. For the record, all Australian wickets fell to spin.