The over 30,000 Sunday crowd came in anticipation of a Sachin Tendulkar or Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fireworks but instead watched a magnificent stand of 294 runs between Murali Vijay (129 not out; 288b, 17x4, 2x6) and Cheteshwar Pujara (162 not out; 251b, 25x4, 1x6), who toyed with the Australian attack on the second day of the second Test at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Vijay-Pujara’s unbeaten stand was India’s highest for the second-wicket against Australia, eclipsing the existing record of 224 between Mohinder Amarnath and Sunil Gavaskar against Australia at Sydney in 1985-86.
Vijay and Pujara turned out to be the gladiators of the day to take India to a position of strength. The home side took a 74-run lead to end the day at 311-1. Australia had declared at 237 for 9 on the first day.
It was test of nerves for Vijay and Pujara in the morning session after Virender Sehwag left in the fifth over of the day. Continuing his poor form, Sehwag could not take his bat away from a rising delivery from Peter Siddle and edged it to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. In the morning session there was some ‘juice’ in the wicket. That helped Siddle and James Pattinson to get some movement and bounce. But Vijay and Pujara saw off the difficult period with determined batting. It was all about staying at the wicket and the two accomplished that task in a methodical way. In fact, the Indians produced only 49 runs from 27 overs in the pre-lunch session.
On resumption, Vijay and Pujara shifted gears and scored runs at a good rate. Watched by a good crowd of 30,176, Vijay and Pujara got better and better to milk the Aussie attack, which looked clueless. With the wicket playing easy unlike the first day, the ball came nicely to the bat and helped the Indian batsmen dominate the entire day’s proceedings.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty and debutant off-spinner Glenn Maxwell did not get the same purchase like the Indian spinners though Doherty beat the batsmen on odd occasions. The Oz bowlers were tight but not penetrative enough to trouble the Indian batsmen. Moises Henriques had flattering figures of 11-5-13-0 at one stage.
Vijay was glorious in his cover drives in the first half of his century before playing all round the wicket while Pujara, too, gathered his runs with his cuts and cover drives. The session between lunch and tea saw India accumulating 106 runs with both the batsmen on 73 runs apiece. Pujara collected four boundaries in quick succession, including two in Henriques’ over, before late cutting Maxwell to third man for a couple to notch up his second successive century at the ground. Fourteen deliveries later Vijay, too, joined in the celebrations. After hoisting Maxwell over mid-wicket for a six, he cover drove the bowler to move into 90s. From 99, Vijay reached his second century against Australia with a step-out drive over covers off Doherty. It was a commendable effort.
On a hot day runs came at a fast clip after the two completed their centuries. The 25-year-old Pujara struck David Warner for three fours in one over. Australian captain Michael Clarke looked lost, failing to the stop the runs. There was no reverse swing for either Pattinson or Siddle. The last session saw India piling up 151 runs in 30 overs. Pujara, who pulled a muscle, brought up his third 150 in Tests with a hooked six off Siddle, his last 50 came off 42 deliveries with 10 fours & one six. He went past his best score of 157 at this venue, scored against New Zealand last year.