• India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 2nd day

Tendulkar, Kohli even up match

The Report by Daniel Brettig
February 23, 2013 « Opening Batsman lets fly late on | Chartbeat test »
India 182 for 3 (Tendulkar 71*, Kohli 50*, Pattinson 2-25) trail Australia 380 (Clarke 130, Henriques 68, Warner 50, Ashwin 7-103) by 198 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sachin Tendulkar's innings was the most assured and ominous he has played at Test level in recent memory (file photo) © Getty Images
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In the space of his first two balls, Sachin Tendulkar changed the complexion of this match. Arriving at the wicket with India a forlorn 12 for 2 in reply to 380, he punched a rampant James Pattinson through the covers with so much certainty that a previously confident Australia were given pause, while a momentarily cowed India breathed anew.

By the end of the day Pattinson had burst through a third batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara, but used only in a pair of micro-spells he was unable to get at Tendulkar, and the hosts reached a contented 182 for 3 with Virat Kohli offering typically wristy support. Tendulkar's innings was the most assured and ominous he has played at Test level in recent memory, though it could easily have ended in the final over before tea.

Nathan Lyon pushed most of his deliveries through, but second ball he looped an off break that Tendulkar padded away dismissively though it appeared bound for the stumps. Australia's appeal was prolonged and justified, but the umpire Marais Erasmus was unmoved. The reprieve had a restorative effect on Tendulkar, allowing him to go on to only a second half-century in his past 14 Test innings, and a deflating one on Lyon, depriving him of the confidence an early wicket would have provided. He was seldom a threat from that moment.

India's innings had been delayed until after lunch by the obduracy of the Australian tail. Michael Clarke went on from his overnight 103 not out to 130, going past Greg Chappell on Australia's list of run aggregates along the way, and Peter Siddle dead-batted to a stodgy but valuable 19 from 94 balls. Pattinson and Lyon then managed to extend the session, each ball a little victory for the pair. Lyon ultimately succumbed when his sweep was well held at leg slip.

R Ashwin again bowled teasingly, and Lyon's wicket gave him a new innings high-mark in first-class cricket. Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh struck earlier in the morning, the latter improving somewhat on his diffident performance on the first day of the series. Redolent of a desert, the pitch required constant vigilance by the batsmen, and does not look like improving.

M Vijay and Virender Sehwag walked out for the start of the afternoon session aware that Australia's most threatening bowlers would be employed immediately. Mitchell Starc took the first over and bowled tidily without extracting his pet inswing to the right-hand batsmen, relying on the occasional short ball for the element of surprise. He was later to spend too many overs around the wicket, negating his natural angle, and the creation of footmarks for Lyon.

At the other end Pattinson charged in for his first Test since a side strain removed him from Australia's attack in Adelaide last November. Clearly instructed to bowl at his fastest in short spells by his captain Clarke, Pattinson touched 150kmph during a three-over stint that exhilarated everyone but the Indian opening batsmen.

Smart stats

  • Sachin Tendulkar's half-century is his seventh fifty-plus score in Chennai. In 15 innings at the venue, Tendulkar has scored 947 runs with five centuries and two fifties at an average of 94.7.
  • Tendulkar, during the course of his knock, also went past 7000 runs in home Tests. Only Ricky Ponting has more runs than Tendulkar in home Tests. Tendulkar is also 128 runs away from becoming the highest run-getter in Tests against Australia.
  • Since the start of the England series in 2011, India's opening partnership has averaged just 33.56 in 32 innings. Among top Test teams (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), only New Zealand and Sri Lanka have a lower average for the opening wicket.
  • For the first time since November 2009 (end of his 70th Test), Virender Sehwag's average fell below the 50 mark. Since the Edgbaston Test in 2011, Sehwag has managed just 867 runs in 28 innings at an average of 30.96 with one century.
  • R Ashwin's 7 for 103 is his best bowling performance in Tests surpassing his previous best of 6 for 31 against New Zealand last year. Overall, it is the tenth-best bowling performance in Chennai (seventh-best by a spinner).
  • Michael Clarke's 130 is the highest individual score by an Australian captain in Tests in India. He surpassed the record of Ricky Ponting, who made 123 in Bangalore in 2008.
  • For the 11th time overall and the first time since the Delhi Test in 2008, all wickets in the Australia innings fell to Indian spinners.

Entering the match with modest domestic form, Vijay was beaten for pace by a full ball that tailed back fractionally and plucked out leg stump via the inside edge. Sehwag never seemed at home, and a late defensive prod on a ball angled back into him resulted in a dismissal that looked bizarre but also felt inevitable.

It was reminiscent of Graham Gooch's famed handled-the-ball dismissal in an Ashes Test at Old Trafford in 1993, only this time the batsman allowed the ball to drop on the stumps rather than pushing it away with an illegal glove. Having worn his spectacles to the middle, Sehwag strolled off in search of a new optometrist.

Tendulkar marked his guard with few recent Test runs behind him, and a clear pattern in his recent dismissals - the stumps were bound to be attacked. But he confronted those first two balls with such assurance that the tone of the innings changed almost immediately, Australia's bowlers and fielders given pause by the poise of an ageing master, as he set his soundest foundation for quite some time.

Pujara lost little by comparison, technically compact but never missing a chance to score, and together with Tendulkar he pushed India out of the worst of the danger. Tendulkar's non-shot against Lyon will stick in the memory of the Australians should he go on to a century on day three, much as Clarke's escape from a bat-pad appeal gave India reason to feel wronged on the first afternoon.

Australia's bowlers found some reverse swing not long after tea, Moises Henriques and Siddle both bending the ball usefully. But it was Pattinson who found a way through Pujara, though with a delivery never intended to curve. Delivered across the seam, it skidded through low and beat Pujara's slightly lax defensive stroke, leaving India precariously placed at 105 for 3.

But the breach was not fully exploited. Pattinson again returned to outfield duty after only three overs, Lyon remained inconsistent, and the rest were lacking in danger if not effort. Clarke eventually brought himself on from over the wicket, and had the ball biting out of the rough. But he was unable to land there enough to maintain pressure, and the day petered out with Tendulkar looking every bit as assured as his first two balls had been.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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