One man reached his maiden Test hundred, and the other put himself within one three-figure knock of recording 50 tons. Yet there was little to separate the two in excitement. For two whole sessions the best of Indian batsmanship came to the fore as replacement opener M Vijay and Sachin Tendulkar put an unimaginative Australian attack to sword.
When the day began, the talk was of the 151 runs India still needed to avoid the follow-on. By the time it ended, a 308-run third-wicket partnership between Vijay and Tendulkar dominated everything else.
In the morning, there was the fear that Vijay, who was playing his 8th Test, was just a touch too defensive, and not making full use of the fact that he had a batting legend for company at the other end. While Vijay showed all the patience required of a Test opener, he also occasionally failed to cash in on the loose delivery. On 49, Vijay jumped nervously down the pitch and would have been comfortably run out had Nathan Hauritz’s throw found its target.
On 77, Vijay had a second breather as umpire Ian Gould felt a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery that rapped the pad would have gone over the stumps.
To Vijay’s credit, he made the most of his opportunity, a hallmark of his so far stop-start Test career, when he has inevitably been filling in for one batsman or another.
For Tendulkar, though, there were no hiccups at all in his near eight-hour stay at the crease. The efficiency with which he worked the singles irritated the Australians, and occasionally, when he felt like it, Tendulkar would unveil the cut, the sweep or the forcing drive through point. The shots of the day from the little man, however, came when he was in his “nervous nineties.” Perhaps recalling the advice his son Arjun gave him when he went through a phase where he was dismissed in the 90s, Tendulkar, on 93, picked up Nathan Hauritz and deposited him in the stands over long-on. On 99, when he faced Hauritz again, the result was the same. Tendulkar, helmet off, arms aloft, acknowledged the raucous cheers.
When Vijay (139) fell and Cheteshwar Pujara and Suresh Raina followed closely, Australia got some breathing space.
But, with Tendulkar unbeaten on 191, India will be happy with ending the third day on 435 for 5.