In what is considered to be Chappell country, it was India's day out as they ended the day at 301 for 5 after Anil Kumble got the rub of the coin, winning an important toss and opting to bat first without much hesitation. Sachin Tendulkar was the star of the day as he slammed his 39th test hundred, 9th against Australia and the second of the series to put India in a commanding position at close of play. Mahendra Singh Dhoni batted through 54 balls for his 6, while Tendulkar was unbeaten on 124.
A Sachin Special
Numbers at the Adelaide Oval weren't going to deter Tendulkar. Be it Daryl Harper of 1999 or the rusty form he was going through last time around, the man was ever so determined to first stay on the wicket and then plunder runs by the hundreds. Tendulkar walked into bat at a tricky period before lunch, with Rahul Dravid just departing the scene. He negotiated that duration with relative ease before walking out to resume batting after the break. And since then, his innings has just blossomed into something special.
And, if his first shot was anything to go by, the crowd was in for a treat. A scorching straight drive off Brett Lee which one could see over and over again without getting bored of it. And then, followed an attempted push through mid-off moving forward to a full delivery from Johnson, only to take the outside edge through point - the result the same. Scratchy, but runs. And then followed something special a la Sachin - a carve through mid-off from a fuller one from Johnson, an outstanding shot. That's quite how Tendulkar got going. Since then, his innings has just flowered into a spectator's delight.
Tendulkar began on an extremely positive note - to put the loose balls away. He did that with perfection to almost every Australian bowler on view today beginning with Brett Lee to the odd ones from Michael Clarke. His immaculate feet movement along with decisive strokeplay ensured that the Australians were made to bowl what he wanted, rather than what they wanted to. Tendulkar's innings was a reflection of a musician's tempo - the tenor was high, went into a trough when it was needed to and then hit a crest - almost without getting noticed. The crest came when he raced to his fifty off 77 balls, including a massive six off Brad Hogg. The intentions were quite clear.
And what followed after his fifty was even more intriguing - a flurry of runs against the left-arm chinaman bowler, 18 in an over. He was nearing his 39th Test Hundred and then an audacious yet brave attempt at glory with a six off Michael Clarke to take him to 98 and then bringing it in style - with a boundary the very next ball. The arms go up, the helmet's off and then the relief of reaching yet another century. Tendulkar was relentless after his century, as he kept playing his shots consistently. The "up and over" shot came out of the arsenal yet again as he ended the day on an unbeaten 124.
Laxman's Supporting Act
When VVS Laxman walked in to bat, India were in a bit of a situation at 156/4, with Ganguly gone for hardly anything. He started off tentatively giving solid support to Tendulkar before tea, and then just as he got his eyes in - he was giving Tendulkar a run for the money as far as batsmanship was concerned. He handled both pace and spin with extreme skill and a touch that seemed like déjà vu. He played a fluent, flawless innings to lead an Indian fightback and in the process, was involved in a massive 100-run partnership with Tendulkar. He reached his fifty in 95 balls, before falling out to a Brett Lee bouncer, taking his eyes of the ball. What began as an innings filled with attractiveness all over ended up awkwardly as Laxman could not handle the short one from Lee, eventually falling for 51.
Setting a Platform
Tendulkar's century might have overshadowed proceedings at Adelaide, but within that Indian dressing room, lies a man who began it all. Virender Sehwag's butchery at the top helped the visitors get off to a flyer. He was at his usual best, taking every bowler with the scruff of the neck, belting them to boundaries at will. He was severe on anything short and wide, and playing to his strength i.e. optimum hand-eye co-ordination with minimal footwork. His half-century came at a crucial time for India as they gained a healthy momentum to their innings, which set the much-needed platform for the likes of Tendulkar and Laxman to flourish. He was finally removed for 63, trying to cut one from Lee, only to be caught by Hayden in the slip.
Anil Kumble's captaincy has attracted a lot of praise for his ability to be bold. And bold he was, when he promoted Irfan Pathan to open the batting for India. The Baroda all-rounder seemed composed at the wicket, jumping at any opportunity to put the loose ball away. However, his stint came to an abrupt end after he was caught behind off Mitchell Johnson for just 9.
There was a mood of déjà vu when Rahul Dravid walked in to bat as this was a ground where he had done it all the last time around. He looked to be positive right from the outset but the Australians struck to a nagging line and length that would not let the batsmen get away easily. After racing to a quick fifty in the 11th over, India were tied down by some superb spells of attacking yet restrictive bowling by Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark. Rahul Dravid was lucky to survive a leg-before appeal from the Johnson, which looked absolutely dead as far as the Aussies were concerned, only to be denied by the umpire. He could not add too much to his tally, as Dravid tried to fend one outside the off-stump which was slanted across him by Johnson.
Ganguly's dismissal left India in a slight spot of bother as he was trapped leg-before by Brad Hogg for 7. Ganguly tried sweeping a ball, planting his feet firmly forward but missed it completely and the umpire looked convinced enough to give him out. But, that set the ball rolling for India as Laxman came into the scene with his partnership of 100 with Tendulkar.
If the Australians behaved like saints at Perth, Adelaide hasn't been any different so far. At several passages of play, they showed signs of shoulders drooping, especially when Sachin was going in gung-ho mode. The expressions on Ponting's face seemed like he was bereft of ideas. And these signs of frustration were further seen when Adam Gilchrist dropped VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni was handed a life at the fag end of the day when the usually reliable bucket-hands of Matthew Hayden turned into butter-fingers as he dropped a sitter. The Australian fielding, at moments looked slack, despite the effort.
Umpires also added to Australia's frustration as some they were denied some decisions at important junctures of play. Rahul Dravid's leg-before seemed dead, but umpire Asad Rauf didn't think so. And similarly, Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar survived marginal decisions that could have gone either way on another day.
All in all a perfect day for India, with more than a three hundred runs scored for the loss of just five wickets. Day 2 promises to be interesting, especially because India would look to bat for as long as possible and extend their tally as close to 450 as possible before having a crack at the hosts.
India (from): Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh and Ishant Sharma.
Australia (from): Phil Jaques, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark.
Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan)