Records tumbled at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium as opener Shikhar Dhawan led India’s superb response to Australia’s first innings of 408 in the third Test. The left-hander’s boundary-laden onslaught captured the crowd’s attention even more than his distinctive handlebar moustache as he took just 85 balls to reach three figures.
It was the fastest recorded century on Test debut, beating the 93-ball mark set by the West Indies’ Dwayne Smith against South Africa in 2004. By the time Dhawan closed on 185, he had made the highest ever score by an Indian debutant. Dhawan and Murali Vijay, whose unbeaten 83 went almost unheralded, set a record opening partnership on this ground.
At stumps, score of 283 without loss served to overshadow the morning heroics of Australia’s Mitchell Starc, who was dismissed one run short of a deserved hundred, and Steve Smith (92). The pair put on 97 before Smith, who had looked comfortable throughout, was tempted out of his crease by Pragyan Ojha and stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. That just encouraged Starc to attack more, though, claiming boundaries almost at will off Ojha and punching a short ball from Ravichandran Ashwin for four.
But, needing one for his century, he played and missed twice outside off stump at Ishant Sharma, then made contact the third time and Dhoni snaffled the catch. He could manage a wry smile as he trudged off the pitch with his highest first-class score — sportingly congratulated by Sharma — and the rest of the players followed soon after as last man Xavier Doherty was lbw to Ashwin.
Dhawan made a blistering start in the Indian reply and took an early liking to the medium pace of Moises Henriques, with two boundaries off his third over and two more in his next. That took him to 40 from 39 balls, 36 of them in fours, and he moved past 50 at better than a run a ball with three more boundaries off spinners Doherty and Nathan Lyon.
The more restrained Vijay joined in the fun with two sixes in an expensive Lyon over and, when Starc’s return was greeted in typical style by Dhawan, the century partnership was on the board inside 22 overs. Even though the boundaries dried up slightly with three figures approaching, Dhawan continued scoring quickly, though he was fortunate to see an edge through the slips find the rope to take him to 98.
As if his innings was not remarkable enough, he reached his ton with a five when he dived to complete a risky single and the throw at the stumps flashed past for four overthrows. Dhawan hit 21 fours and his innings was the fourth-fastest Test century by an Indian batsman, a list headed by 74-ball tons from Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin.
Vijay was unbeaten on 42 at tea and got his moment in the spotlight in the fifth over of the evening, clipping Lyon for two to bring up a 103-ball half-century.
He had hit Peter Siddle for his fifth four in the previous over, to go with his two sixes. Dhawan hit what remarkably was his first six — and almost his first aerial shot — when he lofted Lyon into the sightscreen despite being deceived in the flight. The 200 partnership came up with three Dhawan boundaries in one Starc over and Lyon then suffered the same fate before Dhawan reached 150 from 131 balls.