India move in for the kill

Australia struggling to hang in there after conceding big lead.

MS Dhoni and R. Ashwin seem to be plotting another batsman's downfall.

Scorecard | 1st day | 2nd day | Partnership records | Doherty on ideal target | 'Injuries taught me a lot'

HYDERABAD:
In a stranglehold is how India held the second Test at close of play on Monday. Having piled on the agony run by agonizing run upon an increasingly clueless Australia in the first two sessions, the hosts wrenched out a couple of key wickets late on the day to lead by exactly 192 at stumps.

By the end of the third day, Australia were struggling to stay afloat on 74/2. They were subjected to a huge total (503) and then suffered against spin bowling as India's traditional strengths kicked into motion.The advantage was gained principally through the massive partnership of 370 between Cheteshwar Pujara (204) and Vijay (167). This is now India’s highest alliance second-wicket alliance and the second-highest over-all.

Early wickets

Pujara completed his second double-hundred and Vijay his highest Test score and even a latter-end collapse couldn't prevent the home side from taking a lead of 266. Beginning under the weight of a substantial deficit, Australia’s openers David Warner and Ed Cowan were dropped at least once apiece, and had chanced their way to 56 runs across 20 overs when Warner, trying to sweep an over the wicket R. Ashwin, lost his exposed leg-stump.

The second wicket too fell at the same score and through a similar ploy: an over the wicket line luring new man Phil Hughes (0) into yet another fatal sweep, with the ball rolling off the glove and on to leg stump. Cowan and Shane Watson held steady till the end, knowing well that they need 192 more just to make India bat against over the course of the next two days.

Leather hunt

Pujara and Kohli both completed 1000 Test runs on Monday. The first session belonged to Pujara and Vijay and the series of records they rewrote. By lunch, they had stretched India’s lead to 163. A session of application later, and they had surpassed the highest second-wicket, and fourth-highest overall, partnership for India. Vijay, who had resumed on 126, played a couple of majestic cover drives off Peter Siddle before popping a catch to backward short-leg, becoming Glenn Maxwell’s first wicket.

Pujara reached his double with a step out and flick off Maxwell, and was joined in the celebrations by Sachin Tendulkar, who also had a long talk with the younger batsman. The conversation didn’t help, for in the next over, Pujara launched impulsively into a hook off a rearing James Pattinson bouncer, and top-edged it to Xavier Doherty at fine leg.

The stage was set for Tendulkar to cash in on a weary attack. The maestro steered Pattinson for four, but patted the next ball down the leg-side to the wicket-keeper. A loud appeal followed and Tendulkar, after consultations with TV replays, was adjudged to have snicked the ball. Dhoni got going by taking Doherty for three boundaries in an over, bringing India’s lead closer to 200 and a declaration. The Indian skipper fell six short of another racy fifty when he smashed Maxwell to mid-off, where he was taken on second attempt by Doherty.

Late collapse

India lost their last five wickets for 19 runs as Aussie spinners started extracting telling turn and bounce. Having cleared long-off with consummate ease off Maxwell, Ravindra Jadeja (10) drilled back a full-blooded shot at the bowler, who took it on second attempt after putting in a dive.

Doherty decided to make best of the situation with two wickets of his own: both Indian off-spinners. Ashwin had a rare poor day with the bat. He was dropped by Cowan at short-leg off Maxwell, but was out to the left-arm spinner next over, Doherty getting one to spin away, Ashwin edging to gully.

Harbhajan (0) butchered Doherty down Maxwell’s throat at mid-off, Virat Kohli (34) was out to a stunner by Hughes at backward short-leg and became Maxwell’s fourth victim. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was stumped off Doherty, bringing India’s innings to hurried closure on 503 at the stroke of tea, a lead of 266.

Dropped catches

Ashwin shared the new ball with Bhuvneshwar and suffered initially when Warner took three fours in his first over. The pocket dynamite, when on 13, was dropped by Kohli at gully. His opening partner Ed Cowan too received a reprieve, when Dhoni fudged a clean inside-edge induced by Bhuvneshwar, gloving the catch away instead of accepting it.

Ashwin continued to trouble the openers, beating them and striking them on the pads, before Warner eased the pressure by clouting him for six over long-on, where he was caught splendidly in the stands by former Aussie quick Merv Hughes. India’s star off-spinner, however, returned with two key wickets before close.

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