|74.4||Krejza to Tendulkar, FOUR, And he gets it. Hundred no 40. And has a big smile as Ganguly comes across to congratulate. It was a short delivery and Tendulkar cut it through backward point. The helmet is off, the bat is held high, he looks up to the skies and the dressing room celebrates.|
Belligerent scoring, at over five an over, made way for a more measured approach as Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman steadily gnawed away at Australia in Nagpur. India lost debutant M Vijay, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag in 29 deliveries towards the end of the first session before the two in-form veterans shored up the innings in the second. Tendulkar, who had thrown away starts on four occasions this series, appeared determined to reach a hundred while Laxman, in his 100th Test, picked caution over strokeplay.
Tendulkar played Jason Krejza a lot straighter than Laxman, but was in such control that he could easily adapt his mode of attack. This was most evident in the 35th over, during which he unfurled a slog-sweep over midwicket and a lofted on-drive to raise India’s 150.
He was most pleasing, however, when pushing Lee with a trademark straight bat down the ground for four. His 52nd Test half-century needed 65 deliveries and he slowed down as tea approached, perhaps mindful of his mistakes in Mohali and Delhi.
Though not as implacable as in Delhi – where he stroked 259 unbeaten runs – Laxman stood firm, as has become his trademark. He has been regarded by team-mates as India’s crisis man on many occasions and with a technique that still allows plenty of flourish, Laxman helped steady the innings. Even when the ball stopped on him, Laxman relied on those supple wrists and worked Krejza over the infield. The only phase when he was troubled was Lee’s second spell, during which the bowler obtained a bit of reverse-swing. As Sehwag had raised India’s 50 and 100, Laxman steered a single to third man to signal the 200, reached at a healthy rate.
A 98-run partnership between India’s new opening pair held sway for much of the morning session before Australia fought back, led by debutant offspinner Krejza’s double-strike. During a frenetic first hour, the most productive region for India was the third-man boundary. Lee was far from his best, operating in the mid-130k range all morning, and while Mitchell Johnson obtained disconcerting lift, his tendency to pitch too full made it easy for the batsmen.
Sehwag took care of the new-ball threat that Johnson posed, driving and scooping him through backward of point, slashing him over third man, and whipping him delectably across the line. A genuine outside edge off Johnson, which bounced low in front of Matthew Hayden at first slip, when Vijay was on 11, was the nearest Australia came to a chance early on.
Sehwag’s panache was complimented by M Vijay’s solidity on perhaps the easiest track to make your debut as a batsman. Allowed to drive on the up mid-way through the first session, he also tucked the straighter deliveries for singles that kept the score ticking. Vijay was shaping well, and India had the ideal platform, when Shane Watson surprised him with an excellent short delivery that caught the edge and flew to Brad Haddin.
Three overs into Krejza’s first Test bowling spell, Sehwag was taking him apart, and the decision to play him ahead of Stuart Clark seemed a big mistake, but two quick wickets justified his selection. Bravely kept on despite having bled 32 from his first three overs, Krejza tossed one up, got it to bounce and watched in glee as it flew off Rahul Dravid’s gloves to forward short leg. Sehwag slowed down after the double-strike, perhaps aware that the only way to get out on this featherbed was to throw it away. And he did just that, when a hundred was seemingly ripe for the picking. Attempting a lazy late-cut against Krejza, Sehwag dragged one that spun and bounced back onto his stumps.
Far more assured strokeplay from Tendulkar and Laxman, if not as pulse-quickening, ensured a strong platform was not wasted.