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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Jul 2014
Vijay stoops to conquer once again
N Ananthanarayanan , Hindustan Times
Mohali, March 17, 2013
First Published: 23:45 IST(17/3/2013)
Last Updated: 01:21 IST(18/3/2013)
Murali Vijay raises his bat after scoring his third Test century, all of which have come against Australia. Vijay was a part of the record opening-wicket stand with Dhawan. Gurpreet Singh/HT

Some of Indian cricket's finest success stories have been about players finding their feet. VVS Laxman decided opening was not his forte before finishing as one of the country's great middle-order batsmen.

Zaheer Khan's development as a swing and seam master came after he gave up an injury-inducing leap and search for pace.

Opening batsman Murali Vijay is the latest to show similar signs. On Sunday, the 28-year-old again reaped the rewards for cutting out unrewarding aggression and playing the holding role by scoring his second big century in a row.

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His first 12 Tests between 2008-11 fetched him 611 runs at an average of just over 30. Going for broke worked at the domestic level, where he has been among the leading batsmen, but did not work at the international level. But reinventing himself has paid off superbly.

He has scored 336 runs in four innings in this series, after finishing on 153 on Sunday to follow up on another gem at Hyderabad, 167. India hold the edge going into the final day and his transformation would have played a huge role if they do pull off a win to go 3-0 in the series.

Like his 370-run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara in Hyderabad, Vijay stayed patient, carrying on after the blazing 289-run partnership with Shikhar Dhawan ended, before India were all out for 499, 91 ahead of Australia.

At stumps, the Aussies were 75 for three, still 16 behind, with injured skipper Michael Clarke looking unlikely to bat.

Dhawan had left Australia flattened with the fastest century on debut overnight. But he added just three runs before pushing off-spinner Nathan Lyon into silly point's hands in the second over of the day. His 187 (174 balls, 33 x 4, 2 x 6, 251 min) raised hopes that India would go after the bowling.

But that did not happen.

Steady hand
Vijay played a steady hand on a pitch that was still good to bat on but the run rate, close to five when Dhawan was exploding, fell to less than three after Sachin Tendulkar (37) came in following Pujara's (1) dismissal.

Vijay lofted Lyon for his 12th four to score his third Test ton --- all against the Aussies --- but Tendulkar fell to a bat-pad catch off leg-spinner Steve Smith on the verge of lunch.

Clarke responded with sharp field placements and bowling changes. The best came when he took the second new ball after lunch. Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle's pace and swing saw four batsmen fall for 19 runs. Virat Kohli (67 no) was left to shield the tail.

Vijay shouldered arms to Starc's first delivery with the new ball to fall leg before. MS Dhoni's attempt to hit out saw the left-arm pacer trap him leg before three deliveries later. Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin were caught behind off Siddle, who went on to claim five wickets.

All-round show
It was the gutsy Bhuvneshwar Kumar who made the difference. He added 61 for the eighth wicket with Kohli and then prised out three wickets. David Warner nicked a wild flash outside off-stump to Dhoni before he switched ends to beat Ed Cowan and Steve Smith with controlled swing.

Going into the final day of the third Test in Mohali, it will be the visitors who will be looking to avoid another defeat within four days, after the first day's play was washed out, not having lasted the distance in the first two matches.

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