The first two hours of belligerence and callousness made way for application from Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, whose 86-run fourth wicket stand took India to 202-3 at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final Test against Australia here on Thursday.
A freak two-wicket burst from debutant Jason Krejza before lunch after being hammered around the newly build VCA Jamtha stadium was not enough to slow down Tendulkar (62 not out), who reached his 52nd half-century with his typically classy strokeplay. India were hell-bent on going after Krejza, and after Sehwag departed despite a typically aggressive 66, Tendulkar took over the mantle of taking the spinner apart in damaging fashion.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni got India the desirable beginning by winning the toss and electing to bat with Sehwag and debutant M Vijay capitalising on a batting paradise. Sehwag tore into Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson, who went for five runs an over in their respective opening spells, before Ricky Ponting’s decision to bring in Krejza began to backfire.
Sehwag launched into the debutant’s first over, dispatching the ball over the bowler for a boundary gaining from Vijay’s solidity at the other end. Vijay made a composed 33 and added 98 runs for the first wicket with Sehwag, who sped to a half-century in 45 balls, before a sharply rising delivery from Shane Watson forced Vijay to fend it off to the wicketkeeper.
Rahul Dravid’s increasing hesitance at the beginning of his innings is a worrying sign for the Indians. His dip in form has been significant over the last two years, and his uncomfortable lunge to drop the ball down off Krejza only managed to creep up to his glove, and an easy catch to Simon Katich gave the off-spinner his maiden wicket in Test cricket.
Sehwag, however, had no intention of slowing down despite the fall of two quick wickets. He continued to treat the spinner as a practice bowler, but the easy runs made him complacent as he went for a cut too close to his body to drag the ball back onto his stumps.
India wore a changed look for the game with Gautam Gambhir missing out due to his ban to make way for Murali Vijay who made his debut, while Amit Mishra replaced Anil Kumble, who announced his retirement after the third Test in Delhi. There will be more changes in the times to come, as Sourav Ganguly prepared for his final Test. VVS Laxman was playing in his 100th Test match.
Australia, trailing 0-1 in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, made one change to their side from the one that played in the drawn third Test, with off-spinner Jason Krejza making his debut in place of paceman Stuart Clark.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, M Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Cameron White, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Jason Krejza.