Cheteshwar Pujara struck his second Test double century to ensure a huge first-innings lead as hosts India took a stranglehold of the second cricket Test against a hapless Australia here today.
Pujara's masterly knock of 204 and his record 370-run partnership with Murali Vijay (167) helped India pile up a commanding 503, giving the hosts a lead of 266 runs on the third day at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Such was the impact of the Pujara-Vijay effort that India managed to cross the 500-run mark despite losing their last nine wickets for only 116 runs.
With a huge cushion under their belt, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin came out all guns blazing, dismissing David Warner (26) and Phillip Hughes (0) in quick succession as Australia finished the day at a shaky 74 for two in their second innings.
Both Warner and Hughes were guilty of trying to sweep Ashwin deliveries, which pitched on the leg-stump before disturbing their stumps. At the close of play, Australia required another 192 runs to avoid an innings defeat, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co going 2-0 up in the four-match series seemed inevitable. With still two more days to go, the question now is not how but when will India wrap up the match.
While the second day totally belonged to Vijay and Pujara, the duo did its bit on the third day as they frustrated a lacklustre Australian attack which looked clueless and waiting for the batsmen to make mistakes. While Vijay hit 23 boundaries and two sixes in his 361-ball knock,
Team India's newest 'run-machine', Pujara's magnificent knock, spanning 341 balls, was laced with 30 boundaries and a six. .
Pujara reached his double hundred, when he came down the track to whip Glenn Maxwell through the mid-wicket boundary.
A few records also tumbled during the course of the Saurashtra player's marathon partnership with Vijay. The duo eclipsed the 34-year-old second wicket partnership record of 344 runs set by Sunil Gavaskar (182) and Dilip Vengsarkar (157) against the West Indies at Kolkata in 1978.
They were a bit unlucky however, as the pair failed to surpass the V V S Laxman-Rahul Dravid's record partnership of 376 runs (for any wicket) against Australia at the Eden Gardens, by seven runs.
In the morning, it took nearly 25 overs for Australia to get a breakthrough as Vijay gloved an off-break from Maxwell to Ed Cowan at backward short-leg, giving the debutant his maiden Test wicket.
However, the Tamil Nadu opener had done his job by then, and secured the opening slot for the time being.
Vijay's performance would certainly put a lot of pressure on the national selectors to axe out-of-form Virender Sehwag, as they select the squad for the last two matches at the end of this Test.
Pujara didn't show any signs of hurry as he had enough time to play his strokes.
With the pitch getting slower, James Pattinson's bouncers were also losing their sting, even as Pujara completed another personal landmark of reaching 1000 Test runs.
Pujara became the second fastest in terms of innings to reach the landmark in 18 knocks -- second to Vinod Kambli, who had made it in 14 appearances.
He finally holed out in the deep fine leg region, trying to hook Pattinson.
Once the Pujara-Vijay partnership was broken, India lost wickets in a heap, with the last six batsmen falling for only 43 runs.
Skipper Dhoni played a cameo, smashing 44 off 43 balls while adding 56 runs for the fifth wicket with Virat Kohli (34). But the lower middle-order batsmen were snapped out in a jiffy.
Debutant all-rounder Maxwell was the most successful bowler, grabbing four for 127.
The Australian bowlers however, for a major part, lacked penetration and failed to cause any damage whatsoever as the combo of Pujara and Vijay never looked like getting out.
Funnily, Sachin Tendulkar also got associated with a record. Coming in to bat at No 4, Tendukar had to wait till the fifth ball of the 118th over to come in which is by far the highest duration that he has waited at the pavilion with his pads on.
In the morning, it took nearly 25 overs for Australia to finally get a breakthrough as Vijay gloved an off-break from Maxwell to Ed Cowan at backward short-leg to give the debutant his maiden Test wicket.
However, the Tamil Nadu opener had done his job and has now secured the opening slot for the time being. Vijay s performance would certainly put a lot of pressure on the national selectors to axe Virender Sehwag, as they select the squad for the last two matches at the end of this Test. Pujara didn't show any signs of hurry as he had enough time to play his strokes.
With the pitch getting slower, Pattinson s bouncers were also losing sting as the Saurashtra lad completed another personal landmark of 1000 Test runs. Pujara became the second fastest in terms of innings to reach the landmark in 18 knocks - second to Vinod Kambli, who had achieved the feat in 14 knocks.
Tendulkar hit Pattinson for a boundary past backward point but was caught down the leg-side by glovesman Wade. As Pattinson and other players went up with a caught behind appeal, umpire Kumar Dharmasena referred the legality of the catch to third umpire S Ravi.
The third umpire adjudged Tendulkar caught behind. In red-hot form, Dhoni started clobbering the bowlers from the word go as he hit seven boundaries before failing to clear mid-off fielder. Once Indian captain was out, the visitors didn't take much time to polish off the lower order.
Australia: 237/9 dec and 74 for 2 in 32 overs. (Ed Cowan 26 batting, D Warner 26; R Ashwin 2/42)
India 1st Innings: 503 all out in 154.1 overs.(Cheteshwar Pujara 204, Murali Vijay 167; G Maxwell 4/127, X Doherty 3/131)