CHENNAI: India’s batting legend Sachin Tendulkar showed glimpses of his vintage form with a fluent unbeaten half-century as the hosts recovered from two early jolts to leave the first cricket Test against Australia evenly poised here on Saturday.
The 39-year-old veteran, who had been struggling for form for a long time, played with decisive footwork and a positive frame of mind to guide India to 182-3 in 52 overs on the second day at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, after Ravichandran Ashwin grab a career-best seven-wicket haul.
Tendulkar (71) and Virat Kohli (50) were at the crease when stumps were drawn with India still trailing by 198 runs. The two have so far added 77 runs for the fourth wicket.
Tendulkar, in the course of his 67th Test half-century, touched another milestone by surpassing 7,000 runs on home turf. Kohli, on the other hand, completed his seventh Test half-century at the fag end of the day.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 316-7, Australia continued to frustrate the Indians with captain Michael Clarke (130) and the tailenders combining to score 64 more runs to take the score to a competitive 380.
Clarke got out when he stepped out to loft Jadeja over his head for a straight six but just managed an edge that flew to the hands of Bhuvneshwar Kumar at long-off.
His splendid knock came off 246 balls with 13 boundaries including one shot over the fence.
Ashwin, who had scalped six wickets on the opening day, claimed the wicket of last man Nathan Lyon to return with figures of 7-103, while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (2-71) and Harbhajan Singh (1-87) were the other wicket-takers.
The Indian reply was disastrous to start with as openers Virender Sehwag (10) and Murali Vijay (2) departed in close succession, falling to fast bowler James Pattinson, who was used in short spells.
But Cheteshwar Pujara (44) and Tendulkar steadied the innings to some extent with a 93-run third-wicket partnership. Both the batsmen launched a brilliant counter-attack to unsettle the Aussie bowlers.
Tendulkar hit two glorious fours off first two balls he faced from Pattinson and clobbered another majestic boundary off the fourth ball, making his intentions clear.
Just when the duo seemed to be cruising along comfortably, Pattinson provided the breakthrough when he came back for his second spell by accounting for Pujara.
Pujara fell to a off-cutter in the 29th over after striking six fours in his 76-ball stay at the crease.
With three days left in the game, India will look to come close to the Australian total and then push to seize the initiative.
Earlier, both the openers were out bowled. Vijay was the first to go after a 15-ball stay, which included two fours, done in by Pattinson's pace.
Sehwag quickly followed his partner back to the pavillion, failing to spot a slower one from Pattinson which bounced inside the crease and dislodged the bail of his leg stump.—Agencies
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings, overnight 316-7): E.J.M. Cowan st Dhoni b Ashwin 29 D.A. Warner lbw b Ashwin 59 P.J. Hughes b Ashwin 6 S.R. Watson lbw b Ashwin 28 M.J. Clarke c Kumar b Jadeja 130 M.S. Wade lbw b Ashwin 12 M.C. Henriques lbw b Ashwin 68 M.A. Starc b Jadeja 3 P.M. Siddle c Sehwag b Harbhajan 19 J.L. Pattinson not out 15 N.M. Lyon c Kohli b Ashwin 3 EXTRAS (B-1, LB-7) 8 TOTAL (all out, 133 overs) 380 FALL OF WKTS: 1-64, 2-72, 3-126, 4-131, 5-153, 6-304, 7-307, 8-361, 9-364. BOWLING: Kumar 13-1-52-0; Sharma 17-3-59-0; Harbhajan Singh 25-2-87-1; Ashwin 42-12-103-7; Jadeja 36-10-71-2. INDIA (1st Innings): M. Vijay b Pattinson 10 V. Sehwag b Pattinson 2 C.A. Pujara b Pattinson 44 S.R. Tendulkar not out 71 V. Kohli not out 50 EXTRAS (LB-3, NB-2) 5 TOTAL (for three wkts, 52 overs) 182 FALL OF WKTS: 1-11, 2-12, 3-105. TO BAT: M.S. Dhoni, R.A. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, B. Kumar, I. Sharma. BOWLING (to-date): Starc 14-2-37-0 (1w); Pattinson 6-1-25-3 (1w); Siddle 8-1-31-0; Lyon 14-0-55-0; Henriques 8-2-17-0; Clarke 2-0-14-0.