Hyderabad: Murali Vijay (129*) and Cheteshwar Pujara (162*) wrote their names into the record books with an unbroken partnership of 294 for the second wicket which all but shoved Australia out of the second Test and drove India to 311 for 1, a lead of 74 at stumps. While Australia's two frontline fast bowlers bowled fine spells in the morning, it was the spinners who let them down: Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell conceded 140 in 36 overs on a day on which just one wicket fell.
Sunday's play was broken into three distinct passages of play: Vijay and Pujara scratched around 22 overs for 37 runs in the morning session, moved up a gear to take 106 off the afternoon passage, before accelerating in the final two hours to crush a fatigued Australian bowling attack. The breakdown of each of their 50-run stands was proof of how well the pair paced their innings: the first 50 took 157 balls, the second 97, the third 80, the fourth just 65 and the fifth in just 50 balls.
Vijay and Pujara had been joined at the fall of Virender Sehwag for 6 in the third over of Peter Siddle's first spell (7-2-16-1) in which he tested the batsmen with short deliveries and didn't allow them to drive much. Siddle and James Pattinson worked up good pace, while from the other end Moises Henriques (7-4-3-0) plugged away diligently to keep India's scoring to a drip. With the odd ball keeping low, Australia's seamers were encouraged to vary their lengths and this meant Pujara and Vijay had to stay watchful.
The pair managed just 30 runs in 17 overs from the time Sehwag exited to when spin was introduced, in the 22nd over. Vijay opened up with a lofted shot over extra cover for four in Doherty's fourth over and India's 50 came up in the penultimate over before lunch as Vijay drove a full toss from Pattinson to the deep cover boundary. That shot set the tone for second session, in which Vijay and Pujara scored 106 runs.
The sluggishness of the morning session was followed by a busy afternoon that ended with India within 77 runs of drawing level with Australia, whose bowlers slacked in the second session. Vijay and Pujara went after Siddle and Pattinson and took 30 runs off the first eight overs. Vijay flicked and drove stylishly to collect boundaries off Siddle, while 12 runs came off the 35th over bowled by Pattinson as Pujara cut, drove and steered boundaries with purpose. Doherty's reappearance immediately resulted in Vijay hitting six down the ground to bring up his half-century in 141 deliveries.
Pujara too reached the landmark, off 114 deliveries, with a boundary off Maxwell. He had hurt his knee while diving earlier and struggled between the wickets and so relied on loose deliveries to put away. As Australia operated with spin from both ends, both men opened up. Vijay paddled and clipped Maxwell over midwicket for fours and when Doherty and Maxwell dragged the ball down, Pujara got back to punch boundaries. Michael Clarke grassed a tough catch at slip soon before tea, with Vijay on 71, and the session ended with Pujara pulling Siddle to midwicket for four.
Both batsmen resumed the final session on 73, and Pujara sped ahead with four boundaries. Vijay looked to catch up with six and four off the first two balls of Maxwell's tenth over, which cost 15 and saw Pujara dab past short third man to reach his fourth Test century. Pujara had jumped from 73 to 100 in 39 deliveries. Vijay duly followed his partner to three figures, lofting Doherty over the covers for four. It was his second in Tests and second against Australia, and Vijay celebrated by cutting the next ball for four more. David Warner's introduction brought out the ferocity in Pujara, who pasted a half-tracker and two full tosses to the midwicket boundary as India took 94 off the first hour after tea.
The second new ball proved in futility, with Pujara hitting Pattinson for four fours in the space of two overs, thus swelling the alliance with Vijay past 250. Pujara crossed 150 with a hooked six off Siddle, and that shot aptly summed up the way the day ended for both teams. This stand is now the best second-wicket partnership for India versus Australia in Tests, surpassing the 224 that Mohinder Amarnath and Sunil Gavaskar added at Sydney in 1986.
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