Chennai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave an exhibition of blistering strokeplay to hit a career-best undefeated 206 while Virat Kohli cracked 107 as India rode on their captain’s batting brilliance to gain control of the first cricket Test against Australia by taking a substantial 135-run first innings lead in Chennai on Sunday.
Dhoni produced a stunning counter-attacking knock to notch up his maiden double hundred, his sixth Test century overall, while Kohli recorded his fourth in longer format as the hosts reached a commanding 515 for eight at close, on an eventful third day’s play.
The Indian captain set the M A Chidambaram stadium ablaze with his amazing strokeplay as he smashed 22 boundaries and five sixes during his 243-ball assault much to the delight of a sizeable Sunday crowd which cheered the Indians as they went about consolidating their position in the match.
Dhoni, who was agonisingly run out for 99 against England in India last Test in Nagpur, changed the complexion of the game with his aggressive batting after the hosts lost Sachin Tendulkar (81) early in the morning session. Tendulkar, who gave glimpses of his vintage form yesterday, could add just ten runs to his tally.
The Indians found the going a little tough in the pre-lunch session as the runs dried up but the second new ball ball saw the game slipping away from the Australians as both Dhoni and Kohli attacked the bowlers with an array of shots on both sides of the wicket.
The duo added 128 runs for the fifth wicket before off-spinner Nathan Lyon provided the breakthrough for the visitors with India still 56 runs short of Australia’s first innings total.
Kohli paid the price for a lapse in concentration as he tried to lift a dlivery from Nathan Lyon over mid-on but could not get the desired elevation and Mitchell Starc latched on to a good catch. Kohli clobbered 15 boundaries and a six during his 206-ball knock.
Dhoni then took centrestage and virtually singlehandedly took India to a position of strength with a superb batting display in hot and humid conditions.
After Kohli’s dismissal, India lost another three wickets in periodic intervals as Ravindra Jadeja (16), Ravichandran Ashwin (3) and Harbhajan Singh (11) were back in the pavilion.
However Bhuvneshwar Kumar (15 batting) complemented his skipper really well as they put on a record 109 runs for ninth wicket partnership against Australia.
There were times when Dhoni shielded Bhuvneshwar from the Aussie attack as he refused singles on a number of occasions.
The humidity took its toll but the skipper never gave in.
Whenever the Aussies tried to keep him quiet, he responded with a typical big hit either straight or towards the deep mid-wicket range.
The 31-year-old Dhoni recorded the highest score by an Indian wicket keeper, eclipsing Budhi Kundaran previous best of 192 scored against England in 1964 at Madras Corporation Stadium.
Dhoni also surpassed 4000 Test runs during his game-changing knock.
With couple of days left in the match, India will look to increase their lead as much as possible and then try to push for victory by bundling out out the Aussies cheaply in the second innings as the track is expected to deteriorate gradually.
With rough being created by the bowler’s footmarks on both sides of the track, the Indian team would expect both in—form Ashwin and senior pro Harbhajan to make best use of the conditions so that India doesn’t have to bat last on this track. Even if they come out to bat, they would expect the target to be less than 50 runs which will mean that batsmen won’t be under any kind of pressure.
Ideally, Dhoni would be expecting that Bhuvneshwar provides him with the same kind of support tomorrow which will enable him to take the lead closer to 200 runs.