India ride on Sehwag hundred after Warne's record
India 291 for 6 (Sehwag 155) lead Australia 235 by 56 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Fortunes seesawed one way and the other on a day dominated by Shane Warne's record-breaking effort and Virender Sehwag's cracking 155 before India ended with a modest, yet vital, lead of 56 in the first innings of the second Test at Chennai. India had racked up 291 for 6 when stumps were drawn and every run added was cheered by the crowd.
On a pitch that showed signs of deteriorating unusually early, with the bounce being slightly inconsistent when the ball hit the rough patches, Warne snapped up Irfan Pathan, the nightwatchman, early in the day to go past Muttiah Muralitharan's tally of 532 Test wickets. Warne was forced to dig deep and work hard, and his returns in the second Test so far - 3 for 95 - come on the heels of a disappointing 4 for 193 in the first match at Bangalore.
But for a long time, Warne's effort to reclaim the record was the only bright spot for the Australians. Sehwag, though uncharacteristically cautious, could not completely curb his tendency to unfurl the big strokes even against good balls. Every now and then - when he was not keeping out the yorkers or lapping Warne around the corner - he had an ungainly mow across the line. On more than one occasion he closed the face of the bat early and the ball bobbed over the off-side field via the leading edge.
For the best part of the day the Australian bowlers suffered at Sehwag's hands. On most occasions Sehwag did not even move his feet, but got the rest of the basics right - he was well balanced, got behind the line of the ball and was decisive in choosing what to play and what to leave. The occasional streaky shot did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm as he backed himself to beat the field.
But it was not all brute force. He glided Michael Kasprowicz to third man to go from 95 to 99. Then, when faced with a slower ball, he opened the face of the bat ever so efficiently and eased it to the cover fence to reach his hundred. Sehwag's seventh Test century, one he had to fight hard for, almost singlehandedly got the Indian score up.
Once he reached his century Sehwag began to chance his arm, and you could sense that Australia could claw their way back into the match. And, that was exactly what happened when Michael Kasprowicz prised out Rahul Dravid (26), who was rock solid up to that point, after he had added 95 for the third wicket with Sehwag. He nailed him with a delivery that reversed, and seamed in just a touch as Dravid, rooted on the back foot, dragged the ball back onto his off stump (178 for 3).
From there on the Indians lost their way as Australia kept creating chances. They did not take all of them, but the Indian batsmen just didn't seem to learn. Sourav Ganguly, lucky to have been caught off a no-ball and dropped by Adam Gilchrist, was caught at the wicket as he feathered a Jason Gillespie special (203 for 4). Gillespie, transformed after he appeared with a headband, then squeezed one through VVS Laxman's defences and India had lost two wickets in the space of 10 runs.
As if the loss of two wickets was not enough, Sehwag perished trying to heave Warne over the on-side. India were still 2 runs adrift of the Australian first-innings score when Sehwag, who had contributed almost 67% of the Indian total to that point, was dismissed.
India had gone from being right on top - at 178 for 2 to being under pressure, at 233 for 6. But, Mohammad Kaif (34 not out), playing his first Test match in three years, and Parthiv Patel, once again digging deep, kept the Australians at bay. When the last ball of a warm, humid day was bowled the match hung tantalisingly in the balance. India led by 56, and on a pitch that is wearing, with two spinners on song, even a lead of 100 could be the difference between victory and defeat.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.