The second Test at Hyderabad is really big for two batsmen in the Indian team – Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay. The rest of the batting line-up has shown signs of getting back into form over the past few matches but Sehwag’s failures will now pile on the pressure on the selectors ahead of the team selection for the third and fourth Tests.
It’s a tough wicket to bat on and the Aussies gave nothing away all morning. They were been miserly and their plan was clearly been to work on the patience of the batsmen. It was a battle of attrition in every sense of the word. But it was a plan that failed miserably.
Murali Vijay showed that the time he had spent in the middle during the slow morning session had helped him immensely. While his senior partner, Sehwag had fallen early, the Tamil Nadu opener made the most of his chance as did the brilliant Cheteshwar Pujara
At close of day 2, India have reached 311 for the loss of just one wicket. Vijay, 129*, and Pujara, 162*, are at the crease. The home side have a lead of 74 runs.
Morning session — 27 overs, 49 runs, 1 wicket
At lunch on Day 2, India had crawled to 54 for the loss of one wicket in reply to Australia’s first innings total of 237 for 9. In 27 overs, India scored 49 runs for the loss of one wicket. The session run-rate was just 1.81 RPO.
That one wicket was that of Sehwag. He was dismissed by a beauty from Peter Siddle, it was short of length and Sehwag got a healthy edge through to the keeper. He had been subdued all morning and had tried to slowly work his way into some form.
But to no avail. With this failure, the question of how long a rope he must be given has to be raised once again. Since 2011, in 18 Tests, Sehwag has scored 916 runs at an average of 28.62. Before that, he had 7670 runs in 86 Tests (avg 54.01).
To make matters worse for him, even Gautam Gambhir who has been dumped out of the Indian team has scored more runs than him in the same period – 17 Tests, 944 runs, avg of 31.46. Tendulkar (1207 runs in 20 Tests, avg 37.71) and Dhoni (1182 runs in 22 Tests, avg 38.12) haven’t been great either but they are at least starting to get it together now.
For Sehwag, however, there is no such respite. The century against England at Ahmedabad seems like an aberration now. His struggles against Australia have been especially evident. A look at his last ten scores (7, 30, 4, 0, 10, 18, 62, 2, 19, 6) against the men from Down Under shows that even though there is always an element of fear, there is no real cause for concern.
Even former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar believes that unless Sehwag gets runs in the second innings, he just might be dropped for the third and fourth Tests against Australia.
Following the fall of Sehwag’s wicket – India’s batsmen just tried to stay in the middle. And to that end, they succeeded. Pujara’s old knee injury seemed to trouble him during the session and that affected his running between wickets.
There were no chances, no edges and no sparkling strokeplay either. It was dull cricket but it ensured that going into the second session, both teams still are in the game. It’s clear that India don’t want to bat again.
Post-lunch session — 33 overs, 106 runs, 0 wickets
India came out after lunch and showed some positive intent right away. They needed to do that as well. The initial strategy, it seemed, was simple — just tire out the Australian paceman and wait for the spinners to come on. But the strategy like that is always a double-edged sword because there is a danger that the batsmen won’t be able to find their way out of the rut.
But Vijay and Pujara stepped on the gas with a fair degree of comfort. In the first session, India had hit only 4 fours but in the second session, both batsmen showed aggressive intent to hit 16 fours and 1 six.
Pujara, still hobbling around after picking up a niggle, showed that he is a run-gathering machine. But it was Vijay who truly impressed. Too often has he thrown away a start in the past, today he clearly wanted to make it count.
He worked his way to his third Test fifty off 141 balls — reaching the landmark with a six over long-off off Xavier Doherty, who only seemed to find some help towards the end of the session.
In 16 first-class innings this season, this was only the third occassion when the right-hander has got a 50+ score. He had two centuries in the Irani Cup but the presence of Shikhar Dhawan in the team must have been putting a lot of pressure on him.
Pujara, at the other end, was the more positive of the two. His fifty came off 114 balls and he continued to raise the tempo throughout the session. It’s a slow pitch and playing shots isn’t very easy but the two batsmen mixed aggression and defence very well.
Australia’s bowlers toiled hard but without any reward. They haven’t looked like getting a wicket. The odd ball has spun but that’s it. No alarms for the Indian batsmen save one where Vijay carelessly stepped out of his crease even as Matthew Wade rolled the ball towards the stumps. If the ball had hit, the opener would have been out but the ball luckily missed the target. Vijay was on 54 then.
Post-tea session — 30 overs, 151 runs, 0 wickets
India lost their first wicket at 17 (Sehwag) and after that have simply batted the Australians out of the match. The 294-run partnership between Vijay and Pujara was flawless and exposed the flaws in Australia’s thinking. They left out their most experienced spinner, Nathan Lyon, and the others were just not up to scratch. Glenn Maxwell who got a go in the game conceded 55 runs in his ten overs and didn’t get another over. Xavier Doherty was played with a fair degree of ease as well.
A quick look at the way the partnership progressed shows us just how the duo went about building their innings.
The first 50 runs of the partnership came in 157 balls, the second 50: 97 balls, the third 50: 80 balls, the fourth 50: 65 balls and the fifth 50: 61 balls. The progression shows us just how they started solidly but then really put the pressure on the Aussies.
In fact, during a period between the 70th and 80th over, India scored 71 runs as the Aussies totally came apart. This is probably the weakest Australian team to ever come on tour to India.
By the end, Clarke and Co didn’t know what hit them. Television cameras zoomed in on images of the Australian hitting the ground in frustration.
Pujara reached his 100 in 188 balls including 14 fours but Vijay wasn’t far behind getting his ton in 245 balls. They both batted with a calm that showed how well they had assessed the conditions. This is already the highest second-wicket stand for India against Australia and given how ineffective the Aussie bowlers have looked, expect the runs tally to grow.