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  • India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day

India tighten grip on Australia

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
March 4, 2013 « Kaka confident of Madrid win at Old Trafford | Chartbeat test »
Australia 237 for 9 dec and 74 for 2 (Ashwin 2-42) trail India 503 (Pujara 204, Vijay 167, Maxwell 4-127) by 192 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

M Vijay went on to make 167 © BCCI
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Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay set about breaking a bunch of records on the third morning in Hyderabad before Australia's spinners struck regularly to curtail India's innings. Like Australia offspinner Jason Krejza's wickets on Test debut in Nagpur four years ago, the breakthroughs didn't come early enough to worry India much, as the home side's lead expanded to 266.

Australia's batsmen then had their technique against spin rigorously tested in the final session, and the abundance of deliveries that spat off the pitch or shot low meant India could entertain thoughts of an innings victory. The batsmen were so tied in knots against the turning ball that in one 12-over spell, Australia made only 10 runs despite David Warner powering a six, which was cleanly taken in the stands by former fast bowler Merv Hughes.

Australia decided the way to handle the spin was to go for the sweep, but both Warner and Phillip Hughes messed up the shot to be bowled soon after R Ashwin switched to bowling round the wicket. Hughes' position in the side is becoming increasingly untenable as he remained unsure how to score against spin, gloving the ball on to his stumps for a duck. Ed Cowan survived the testing spell to remain unbeaten at stumps, with Shane Watson keeping him company.

Batting had seemed so much easier in the morning when Vijay and Pujara stretched their stand to 370 runs, India's largest second-wicket partnership and the country's fourth biggest overall. Though Vijay missed out on a double-century, Pujara underlined his reputation as a big-innings player with his second Test 200.

As on the second day, India began cautiously despite having Australia on the mat. After a handful of watchful overs in the morning though, Vijay and Pujara unfurled their strokes. Once again Australia's spinners couldn't maintain a good length early on, producing plenty of boundary balls. Pujara repeatedly played what is becoming his signature shot - the powerful cut in front of point - and Vijay played plenty of effortless and easy-on-the-eye drives.

The frustration increased for Australia as a close call for lbw against Pujara was turned down off Xavier Doherty in the 106th over and a Vijay outside edge flew through the vacant first slip in the 109th.

Finally, there was some relief for Australia when the much-criticised Glenn Maxwell got one delivery to spin and bounce forcing Vijay to edge it to backward-short leg. It had been almost 110 overs since their previous wicket.

The wickets came much quicker after that. Pujara got to his double-century with a stylish on-drive - his first boundary in the V - before he fell playing a shot that has resulted in his dismissal several times in Tests already: the hook.

For the third day in a row, a healthy crowd had turned up - around 20,000 of them were in though it was a Monday - and plenty of those wanted to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat. After more than a day padded up, Tendulkar came to the middle, greeted by a defeaning roar, but he didn't last long, playing a leg-side ball off the face of the bat to the keeper, with the third umpire stepping in to determine whether there was bat involved.

MS Dhoni then showed why he's such a dangerous batsmen when a team is pushing for a declaration, hitting a series of boundaries behind point that quickly swelled India's lead past 200. He fell for a 43-ball 44 as a drilled drive was taken on the second attempt by Xavier Doherty at mid-off. Ravindra Jadeja followed to another second-attempt catch, this time Maxwell reacting sharply off his own bowling. The terrific catching continued as Cowan made amends for an earlier drop by pouching India's last remaining specialist batsman, Virat Kohli.

India's final six wickets went down for 43 runs, though there was plenty of encouragement for the home side's spinners during that phase, as the ball ripped and spun from Doherty and Maxwell. Doherty's dismissal of Ashwin, in particular, would have caught the attention of India's slow bowlers: a fizzing delivery, it bounced and took the shoulder of Ashwin's bat through to the keeper. The late wickets flattered the Australian spinners' figures a bit, with Maxwell briefly in the hunt for a five-for.

India's tweakers made an early impact far earlier in the innings to leave Australia yet again hoping for a Michael Clarke special.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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