Report: Dhoni masterclass has Australia backpedalling

Day three, at stumps: India 515/8. (Dhoni 206*, Bhuvneshwar 16*, Kohli 107, Tendulkar 81, Pattinson 4/89). Australia 380 (Clarke 130, Henriques 68, Ashwin 7/103).

Mahendra Singh Dhoni produced a record-breaking innings that left Australia searching for answers in the field, and gave India a significant first-innings lead on a Chennai pitch that is expected to give the spinners plenty of help on the last two days.

Hammered in recent times for his batting and captaincy in Tests, Dhoni silenced all his doubters with a masterful double-hundred as he bossed Australia from the moment he came to the crease following the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar. His 206 not out was not only his personal best, but also the highest Test score by an Indian wicketkeeper and the best by an Indian captain against Australia.

File photo of MS Dhoni. PTI

File photo of MS Dhoni. PTI

Tendulkar fell in the first session to Lyon, but Kohli, who made a stylish hundred of his own, and Dhoni ensured there was no respite for Australia’s bowlers, who must be wondering how they are going to take 20 wickets in India after this display.

Kohli eventually fell to Lyon trying to force the pace, holing out to mid-wicket (the only batsman not to be bowled). India lost Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin in the final session, but Dhoni found a willing ally in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the pair added an unbeaten 128 for the ninth wicket at over 4 an over, of which Bhuvneshwar’s contribution was 16.

Australia gave James Pattinson 20 overs a day after giving him just six overs, and he got the wicket of Jadeja, but the other two quick men were average at best. Lyon got the wickets of Tendulkar, Kohli and Ashwin, but they came at a high price. He conceded 182 runs from his 40 overs.

India end the day with a lead of 135 runs and have to fancy their chances of pushing for a victory from here.

You can read our session-by-session reports below. If you want a more detailed recap of the day's play from our live blog, click here.

FINAL SESSION

MS Dhoni has been the subject of much criticism for his batting and captaincy in Tests recently but he answered his critics in dramatic fashion with a career-best performance that left Australia searching for answers in the field.

Marshalling the tail with authority, Dhoni targeted Lyon in particular with ruthless efficiency, lofting him for four sixes and sweeping and driving him with consummate ease, on his way to his first double-hundred. It was also the highest Test score by an Indian wicketkeeper and the best by an Indian captain against Australia.

R Ashwin perished in the first over after tea when he was bowled off and inside edge – the sixth batsman to be bowled in the innings – but Dhoni’s concentration never wavered. He charged down the wicket to Siddle and carted him to square leg to bring up his hundred – from just 119 balls – then smashed Lyon straight down the ground for another four.

Dhoni then brought up the 400 for India, and went past 4,000 Test runs, with a huge six off Lyon. He took a couple of steps down the track and carted him over mid-wicket and into the crowd.

Harbhajan Singh, who has two Test hundreds to his credit, slogged Lyon for six as welll but then lost his head and his offstump when he walked down the pitch to Henriques and attempted a cross-batted heave that did not come close to making contact with the ball. Such was Dhoni’s disgust with the offspinner that he did not even look at Harbhajan as the latter walked past him on the way to the dressing room.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has a first-class hundred and an average of 30.30, so he has some ability with the bat, but Dhoni was determined to take as much of the strike as he could, even turning down a single when on 149.

Cowan dropped Bhuvneshwar when the latter had still to get off the mark - the ball spilled from Cowan’s hands at short mid-on – and Bhuvneshwar made Australia pay simply by sticking around with Dhoni.

Dhoni brought up his 150 by driving Pattinson through the covers, then continued to go after Lyon, smashing him for six either side of wicket to push India’s lead toward three figures. Australia’s melting resolve was evident when David Warner misjudged a straight drive from Dhoni that ricocheted off his knee and went for four.

In a last throw of the dice, Clarke brought on Warner to bowl his part-time legspin, but it was simply more of the same as both Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar helped themselves to fours.

Dhoni brought up his double-century with a quick single to the offside against Lyon, but the moment barely seemed to register. A quick raise of the bat to the dressing room was all the acknowledgement he allowed himself. He needed 231 balls to get there (a strike-rate of 86.58), having struck 21 fours and five sixes.

The single also brought up the 100-partnership between him and Bhuvneshwar for the ninth wicket as Australia wilted in the Chennai heat.

Day three, at tea: India 371/6. (Kohli 107, Dhoni 97*, Tendulkar 81). Australia 380 (Clarke 130, Henriques 68, Ashwin 7/103).

A blistering counterattack from MS Dhoni offset the loss of Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja as India pushed Australia on their heels and began to tighten their grip on the first Test in Chennai.

Tendulkar was dismissed early in the morning session but instead of going into a shell, Dhoni and Kohli turned the heat on the Australian bowlers, and they wilted. Dhoni savaged Lyon, lofting over mid-wicket and sweeping at will, while Kohli punished Henriques, who was guilty of bowling too wide.

Improbably, India stepped even harder on the accelerator once Clarke took the new ball. Dhoni thumped Pattinson to the square boundary before Kohli cut Mitchell Starc over the slips.

Dhoni was particularly savage on Starc and Henriques. Batting almost as if he was playing a one-day game, Dhoni smashed Starc for three fours in one over, the second of which brought up his fifty from just 62 balls. Dhoni gave Starc the charge, turning a full delivery into a full toss and slashing it to the point boundary.

Three balls later, he crunched Starc past point again to bring up the 100 partnership with Kohli – the pair needing just 136 balls to reach the milestone.

Kohli was into the 80s by then and progressed serenely through the nineties and was batting on 97 when Pattinson bowled it full and fast and Kohli leaned forward and turned his wrists on the ball to send it racing away between square and long leg and bring up his hundred. This time there was no cursing - just his arms up straight and a big smile on his face.

Dhoni., now in full one-day mode, marched down the track and smashed Henriques for six ver long off before clubbing him over midwicket for four in the same over. There was no let up either, as Kohli unfurled his signature flick to send Pattinson to the mid-wicket boundary and Dhoni cut him past point. At that stage, India had plundered 53 from the first seven overs with the second new ball.

Clarke was forced to bring back Lyon and that’s when Kohli gave away his wicket. Having barely made a mistake thus far, he tried to clear mid-on but Starc reached up with both hands to snag it. Dhoni and Kohli had added 128 runs from just 26.1 overs and it was inevitable that the pace would slow with his departure.

Jadeja may have made two triple centuries in the Ranji Trophy this past season, but he is still a newcomer to Test cricket and was happy to occupy one end while Dhoni kept the scoreboard ticking over. His timing was exemplified by a cover drive against Siddle. IT wasn’t a bad delivery, pitched up and moving in. Dhoni merely leaned forward and gave it the full face of the bat and the ball rocketed past a surprised mid-off to the ropes.

Jadeja had survived a couple of leg-before appeals in making his way to 16 when an error of judgement undid him. Pattinson got one to come back in to the left-hander who shouldered arms only to see his stumps disturbed.

Dhoni and Ashwin then played out the two remaining overs before tea, leaving India trailing Australia by just nine runs.

Day three, at lunch: India 263/4 (Kohli 83*, Dhoni 37*, Tendulkar 81). Australia 380 (Clarke 130, Henriques 68, Ashwin 7/103).

Australia’s fast bowlers – led by James Pattinson – dried up the runs on the third morning before Nathan Lyon produced a classic offspinner’s dismissal to remove Sachin Tendulkar, yet again short of a century. However, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli wrested the initiative back with some aggressive batting and should be happy with their morning’s work.

Before the start of play, Allan Border said Lyon needed to figure out a way to get in the game and take a few wickets, but it was the quicks who posed the initial problems. Clarke had no slips in place but Pattinson and Peter Siddle were allowed to develop a rhythm and concentrated on bowling on or outside offstump. Tendulkar managed one leg glance for four, but the ones and twos that were a feature of the pair’s batting yesterday had disappeared.

Sachin Tendulkar missed out on yet another hundred. PTI

Sachin Tendulkar missed out on yet another hundred. PTI

At one point, the Australians bowled four consecutive maidens with Pattinson, who was given a longer leash with a five-over spell, getting Tendulkar to play and miss on more than one occasion.

Lyon came on and the variable bounce was immediately on display. One ball scooted along the ground to Kohli while another that pitched in the same area bounced sharply to take the handle of the bat.

Tendulkar brought out the paddle sweep as soon as Lyon came on to bowl and looked in little danger when the offspinner tossed one up. Tendulkar came down the track attempting to drive but didn’t quite get to the pitch and left a gap between bat and pad. The ball caught the inside edge and then clipped the leg stump to knock off the bails. The anguish on Tendulkar’s face as he realised what had happened was evident for all to see.

Sensing a shift in momentum, Clarke brought back Pattinson to have a go at Dhoni and Kohli. The batsmen were content to see him off though, while going after Lyon. Kohli clubbed him for six when he dropped short before Dhoni lofted him over mid-on and then swept him through mid-wicket.

Dhoni repeated the dose a few overs later. Lyon had been knocked off his length and offered up a full toss that Dhoni crashed through the covers before punching through the offside cordon when Lyon dropped one short.

Together, Kohli and Dhoni added 67 from 15.5 overs, with Dhoni’s 37* coming at a strike-rate of 88.09.

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