Dhoni's 206 puts India in command

Chennai, Feb 24 (IANS) Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni struck his maiden double century to lift India to a mammoth 515/8 in their first innings at the end of the third day's play in the first cricket Test against Australia at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here Sunday.

Dhoni remained unbeaten on 206 and had Bhuvneshwar Kumar (16 not out) for company as India ended the day with an impressive lead of 135 runs. Australia scored 380 runs in their first innings.

Dhoni and Kumar added 109 runs for the unfinished ninth-wicket stand that took India to a dominating position after they were reduced to 406/8. It was a quick 243-ball knock by Dhoni and was studded with 22 fours and massive five sixes.

Though batting great Sachin Tendulkar failed to break his two-year wait for a Test century, falling for 81 in the morning, what followed next was pure carnage by Dhoni and heir to his captaincy Virat Kohli, who made a valuable 107.

But it was Dhoni's knock that stood out as he almost single-handedly blunted the Australian bowling attack.

Dhoni walked in after India had scored just 14 runs after an hour's play and had lost Tendulkar, who was bowled by off-spinner Nathan Lyon (3/182). Dhoni and Kohli then launched a counter-attack for their 128-run fifth-wicket stand but the scoring slowed down after Kohli was dismissed by Lyon. Kohli in his attempt to get aggressive was caught by Mitchell Starc off the bowling of Lyon.

Ravindra Jadeja (16), Ravichandran Ashwin (3) and Harbhajan Singh (11) all departed quickly and Dhoni risked running out of partners.

Kumar, however, proved an able ally for Dhoni. The debutant managed just 16 runs but made sure that his captain got the maximum amount of strike. Dhoni was in complete control of his brilliant innings and simply toyed with the Australian bowlers.

En route to his 206, Dhoni also crossed a few milestones, crossing the 4000-run mark in Tests. It was also the second highest individual score as an Indian captain and also the highest Test score by an Indian wicketkeeper. Dhoni is now just 28 runs short of the highest score by a wicketkeeper in the history of cricket, 232 by Zimbabwean Andy Flower.

Earlier, after losing Tendulkar, Kohli took the attack to the Australian bowling as he completed his fourth century -- a knock which included 15 boundaries and one six.

The first session was an evenly fought contest with Australian pacers bowling tightly. Tendulkar was well set to get his 52nd Test hundred until Lyon bowled him off a flighted ball that turned sharply. The 39-year-old last scored a Test hundred two years ago in January 2011.

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