If India aren’t too hung up on a left-right combination, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul look to be their opening pair for all seasons. Rahul bats imperiously when not injured but Vijay’s ability to switch on and off as per the situation makes this pair special. (Day 3 Highlights)
Vijay reaffirmed that belief with a 183-ball 82 against Australia in Ranchi on Saturday. He missed out on a hundred in his 50th Test, but if India force a win in Ranchi, the role played by Vijay in the two highest partnerships will be one of the biggest reasons. (SCORECARD)
Strong injury comeback
Having injured his shoulder just before the second Test in Bangalore, it was imperative Vijay came back strongly. His place in the team was never in doubt, but Virat Kohli’s shoulder injury meant India had to start well. With an innings of two parts, Vijay ensured India didn’t lose ground in the Test.
Act One of Vijay’s innings was reasonably subdued, and justifiably so. With Rahul going great guns and finding boundaries at will, India didn’t need an unnecessary dismissal. Vijay was mindful of that. Unless Australia bowled too full to him, Vijay was content playing on the backfoot, and as late as possible. By the time Vijay had faced his 50th delivery, he had scored a boundary-less 10.
Pacing innings neatly
It changed next ball though. Josh Hazlewood bowled wide, allowing Vijay to finally break the shackles with a glorious drive through cover. Vijay was content to play second fiddle till Nathan Lyon gave him the opportunity to improve his strike rate with three boundaries in the 33rd over. In Lyon’s next over though, he almost trapped Vijay but a faint inside-edge saved him.
Too much spin or the lack of it made Vijay look vulnerable at times, but it didn’t stop him from taking a few risks. Second over of the third day wasn’t the ideal time for adventure, but Vijay wanted to make a statement against left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe and he jumped out of the crease and lifted him over long-on for six.
Vijay also used the sweep well. Vijay said it was a conscious decision. “They were bowling really tight, to be honest. Pujara and I had a talk in between. The goal was to see off the initial phase. It came out pretty well, but it could have been much better if I had not got out,” Vijay said at a news conference.
Two of those sweeps, against O’Keefe and Lyon, took Vijay to 70 before he again made room to lift Lyon over mid-off for four. Till then, India looked well-placed in their aim not to lose a wicket in the morning session.
But Vijay had other ideas.
Having made O’Keefe look ordinary during his 12-over spell from the pavilion end, he was determined to mete out the same treatment when the left-armer changed ends. Another sweep through midwicket should have settled the issue. Having just stitched a century partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara, Vijay looked focused on getting his hundred. But he missed it in the urgency to dominate O’Keefe with another six and was stumped.
However, he didn’t regret it.
“I was not disappointed, actually, because the shot was on. Mid-on, mid-off were inside so I thought it was my shot, but the situation was wrong I guess and the execution was not up to mark. But definitely the shot was on,” said Vijay.