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

Pujara and Vijay centuries hurt Australia

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
March 3, 2013
India 311 for 1 (Pujara 162*, Vijay 129*) lead Australia 237 for 9 dec by 74 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

(File photo) Cheteshwar Pujara again showed off his penchant for big scores © Associated Press

The mercury touched 35C during the Hyderabad afternoon and large swathes of the Uppal stadium are roofless, but that did not stop the 28,000-strong Sunday crowd from breaking into Mexican waves as M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara ran amok with an unbroken 294-run stand, which put India in command of the second Test.

The day also showcased the variety Test cricket allows, with India's scoring-rate jumping dramatically in every session - they were restricted to 49 runs in the morning, Pujara and Vijay then became more expansive in the second to pick off 106 runs, before completely cutting loose post-tea to pile on 151 runs against a wilting Australia.

The disgruntled murmurs over Australia's team selection for this match will only grow louder after Glenn Maxwell, who batted at No. 8, was introduced into the attack as late as the 47th over, and was easily dealt with - his 10 overs were caned for 55 runs. His inclusion had plenty of parallels with the ill-fated gamble on Cameron White - another Victoria batsman who could bowl a bit and was used as a spinner batting at No. 8 - during the unsuccessful 2008 India tour.

The other spinner, Xavier Doherty, posed a bit more of a threat, though he too fared as poorly as most Australian tweakers have in India over the years. The visitors' well-documented worries over the strength of their spin department would have increased when he began with two friendly full tosses on leg stump, but he got a few deliveries to rip off the pitch and turn sharply past the outside edge.

Both Pujara and Vijay were sure-footed against the spinners, skipping down the track to crash the ball through covers or whip to the leg side. They didn't allow the spinners to settle either - when Doherty returned to bowl after lunch, his second delivery was powered over mid-off for six by Vijay.

Vijay had kept those sort of flamboyant shots to a minimum early in his innings. India's dominance on the day came on the back of a watchful morning session, where both batsmen looked to play straight, shelving the cross-batted shots which cost Australia dearly on the first day.

After twin failures in Chennai, Vijay needed a big innings to push his case for the remaining Tests. In the first few overs of the day, he chased a couple of short-and-wide deliveries, prompting the usual concerns over his temperament for Test cricket, before buckling down and playing more patiently. It was only after he was well set that his stylish flicks and natural aggression re-appeared.

With this century, Vijay could become India's first-choice opener because the selectors' patience with Virender Sehwag will be running low after he nicked Peter Siddle to fall for 6 - he now has only one 50-plus score in 13 innings.

Sehwag's early dismissal was offset by the increasingly reassuring presence of Pujara at No. 3. Though he injured his knee diving to complete a risky single early in his innings, hampering his running between the wickets, he showed his hunger for runs. He didn't shirk from the quick singles, and despite hobbling frequently he again displayed the concentration and technique that has led to his Test-match skills being talked up in recent years.

The other standout feature of Pujara's career has been his penchant for big scores. While his frequent double-and triple-centuries in domestic cricket have been pooh-poohed a bit for being made on the flat tracks of Rajkot, even at the Test level, this was his third 150-plus score in the five times he has crossed 50.

He repeatedly opened the face to guide the quicks to the third-man boundary, and stepped out to muscle the spinners through cover on his way to his half-century. He has been typecast as a Test player, but as the day progressed he showed off his entire repertoire of strokes, speeding from 100 to 150 in just 42 deliveries, getting to that milestone with an audacious hook for six off Siddle.

With the partnership growing, Australia looked short of wicket-taking options. James Pattinson and Siddle had been unwavering in the morning but had little joy with the old ball, and Moises Henriques acquitted himself well as a back-up seamer though not as one who could pick up a clutch of wickets.

Michael Clarke let the game drift after tea, pinning all his hopes on the second new ball. India rattled off 102 in the first 17 overs of the final session and even when the quicks took the new ball, the momentum didn't subside. There was a chance in the penultimate over of the day, when Doherty forced Pujara to nick, but the ball defelected off Matthew Wade's pad to evade Clarke at first slip. Clarke was left pounding the turf in frustration as Australia completed a day to forget.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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