India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 3rd day February 24, 2013

Dhoni's double builds large lead


India 515 for 8 (Dhoni 206*, Kohli 107, Tendulkar 81, Pattinson 4-89) lead Australia 380 by 135 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Spectators entered the M Chidambaram Stadium earnestly hoping to see a Sachin Tendulkar century. They were to leave it chanting the name of the unbeaten double-centurion MS Dhoni, after watching one of the most brutal and influential innings the ground has witnessed.

Crashing and caressing his highest score, Dhoni tilted the first Test firmly India's way after three days in Chennai. In a startling display of power and poise that amounted to a six-hour celebration of Dhoni's inimitable technique, Australia's bowlers, fielders and captain Michael Clarke were humbled. India lead by 135, but the psychological effect of such an innings is bound to be weightier than that, much as Tendulkar flattened Mark Taylor's team on this ground in 1998.

So supremely did Dhoni play, barely offering a chance, that he overshadowed a perfectly constructed century by Virat Kohli, who proved an ideal partner for his captain. Australia's worst fears of subcontinental conditions - an unresponsive pitch, neutered fast bowlers and uncontrollable Indian batsmen - were realised as Kohli and Dhoni tore the attack to shreds in the first 45 minutes after lunch.

It was a passage that sapped Australia, its after-effects notable in the final session when a contest once finely balanced now looked almost as lopsided as that between Dhoni's top and bottom hands for control of the bat. The debutant and No. 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar played the pesky tail-end role with aplomb, and by the close had taken part in a record, unbroken ninth-wicket stand for India against Australia. In all, 144 runs were ransacked after tea.

Pattinson was clearly his side's best and most threatening bowler, but Nathan Lyon's three wickets came at far too great a cost, and the rest were unable to make anything more than the most fleeting passing impact. Added to the tourists' concerns was the sight of Clarke stretching his back after a bowling spell; the draining day was elongated by a tardy over rate.

There had been immediate evidence of Australian adjustments in the field when play resumed. Pattinson and Siddle bowled without a slip but a tight ring field, denying the batsmen boundaries and homing in on the stumps with the odd short ball thrown in.

After taking an over or so to settle, Pattinson and Siddle charged in for a sustained period of high-quality bowling on a pitch that gave them nothing, only a hint of reverse swing aiding their cause. So tight was their work that four consecutive maidens ticked by at one point, Pattinson holding his head in his hands when he let the sequence lapse with a Tendulkar single behind square leg.

This outstanding partnership was to be exhausted without reward, but Lyon soon became its chief beneficiary. In his first over replacing Siddle, Lyon had Kohli blinking as two deliveries landing in the rough behaved with bipolar variation - the first a grubber outside off stump, the second a jumper that narrowly evaded short leg. Next over Tendulkar stretched to drive a nicely looped offbreak that drifted, dipped to land in a footmark, and spun back to take an inside edge then clip leg stump. Lyon's joy was unrestrained, but Pattinson and Siddle deserved plenty of credit.

Dhoni arrived with India becalmed. He responded with hard hands and aggressive shots, while Kohli heeded his captain's example and pulled a Lyon long hop into the crowd beyond midwicket to help them regain their voice. Boundaries began to leak again where previously none could be found, and the 50 stand was raised at better than four an over.

Lunch came and went, and the arrival of the second new ball was the signal for Dhoni to launch the most brazen of batting assaults. Taking advantage of a harder projectile more waywardly delivered by Australia's bowlers, Dhoni's blade flashed in the afternoon sun as boundaries piled up. Kohli reached his century in the middle of this period when Pattinson drifted onto his pads.

Moises Henriques' return to the attack had Dhoni smearing him contemptuously into the stands at wide long-off, and seven overs with the new ball had given up no fewer than 54 runs when Lyon returned. At once Kohli's ambition outstripped his prudence, and Starc claimed a fine overhead catch at mid-on. Ravindra Jadeja made a careful start, and faced a trio of lbw appeals as Pattinson and Starc extracted the sharpest reverse swing of the match so far.

Pattinson's composure appeared to be slipping with each unsuccessful shout, but minutes before tea, his move around the wicket had Jadeja bowled shouldering arms. Dhoni remained, however, conserving his wicket in the lead-up to the interval then advancing again as the evening session commenced.

Others fell by the wayside - R Ashwin edged Lyon onto the stumps via his boot, and Harbhajan Singh gifted Henriques a first Test wicket with an unseemly waft that did not impress Dhoni - but Bhuvneshwar provided sturdy support. Dhoni toyed with the strike, taking singles at times and spurning them at others, and invariably connecting cleanly when he deigned to swing for the fences.

Australia's bowlers and fielders gradually wilted, Ed Cowan missing a tough chance from Bhuvneshwar while others misfielded, and Pattinson's pace dipped as steadily as Lyon's bite. All the while, the lead grew from awkward to match-defining dimensions. Such a possibility had seemed so unlikely at the moment Tendulkar fell.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • t on February 26, 2013, 21:15 GMT

    2/2 also see what henriques said abt this pitch ("that its a challenge but thats what so great abt playing test cricket in diff countries"). is it any wonder with a positive attitude like that he was one of the best players on display. i love seeing india play in aus/sa/eng rather than say SL (even though we usually win there) only coz the conditions are so different. i'm sure a lot of non-sub continent true cricket fans enjoy matches like this one for the same reason. its so boring to read 50% comments about pitches can we all just move on & talk abt actual performances?

  • t on February 26, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    @Jason Bray. thank you. the first sensible comment i've read. all non-indian fans accuse them of being rube-ish in their behaviour & a few are but it seems that there is an equal number in every country incl. australia. indian fans were accused of being bad sports when they trotted out excuses of pitches/umpiring etc but the same accusers are doing it (sometimes to even greater extent). there's too much talk of pitches i feel. they are the same for both sides & its how the teams adapt to different kinds that shows how skilled they are. that's why cricketers (& most sensible fans) cherish overseas performances/wins than home ones. coz it shows that they are able to play in different conditions. thats why a virat rates his 100 in adelaide above the few others he's got & thats why KP rates his 100 in mumbai test as one of the best. thats why i hated gambhir's statment in Aus ("so what if we struggle here they struggle there") coz it showed his defensive/negative attitude.. 1/2

  • Al on February 25, 2013, 20:01 GMT

    Agree with @Jose Puliampatta - Two great guys from the past are telling the whole day, loud and clear, "OUR DAYS ARE OVER". Sehwag & Harbhajan - they are literally begging to be dropped. How come the selectors can't see that??

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    It's surprising to see how fickle Indian fan can be..just few days back they wanted Dhoni to resign and now they are praises for him.

    Dhoni is the best Indian captain ever and people should start appreciating that. What I love about him the the way he rises back and gets up every time India or his captaincy is in trouble. Inspiring personality.

  • narsimha on February 25, 2013, 11:21 GMT

    Wajahat Afaq-Hats off man, i am a regular on this web , i have to amdit best coments i ever read on these thread what a grand tribut to great grand old man of modern day cricket still going strong .

  • John on February 25, 2013, 9:55 GMT

    @Shan156 on (February 24, 2013, 19:03 GMT) Well written post as always but I fear it's wasted

  • Devika on February 25, 2013, 5:53 GMT

    Congrats Dhoni and team. As I commented yesterday͵ Aus made a mistake in not picking up a second spinner. 3 quicks in sweltering Chennai is an absolute NO-NO. A spinner in tandem with Lyon could have taken that additional wicket or two that would have made all the difference. As it happened - India stuck to the plan - the waiting game in first session - cautious aggression in the second as the quicks steadily depreciate - and all out attack in the third - complete domination over the exhaustion caused by the heat - to finish the day on a high. I am amazed Aus being such a hot desert country their players cannot stomach Chennai heat.

  • disco on February 25, 2013, 5:16 GMT

    @Venkat_Gowrishankar on (February 24, 2013, 23:12 GMT), I think you misread me, I've not said the things you think I've said. I'm australian and I'm enjoying the challenge. Just easing the tension that's all. BTW I have a lot of respect for you culture. I've been inside the Padmabhaswamy temple in trivandrum, with special dispensation, it was amazing to see the very small solid gold Rhada and Krisna with let by the trumpets. I've been inside that very small temple in Kanyakumari during the Kali festival. And I've lived in Coimbatore for a few months. Plus I can recite 108 names of Daksinaurti, so you never can tell.

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    Too much width from Aussie bowlers. 2004 tactics of bowling straight and putting extra fielders on legside to cut off boundaries worked a treat, but yesterday the bowlers could not straighten up the line. Why bowl wide of off stump when the ball keeps low and there are no slips in place? I would say they weren't following the game plan. Kohli and Dhoni broke down the Australian plan and congratulations should go to them. Lyon needs to watch where the Indian spinners pitch the ball. He bowls Australian length, which is too short

  • Martin on February 25, 2013, 4:27 GMT

    sometimes 5 wicket hauls are due to outstanding individual performances , sometimes they are when one bowler bowls reasonably well as part of an otherwise toothless attack. pattinson's in this innings is more in the second category than the first.