Shikhar Dhawan walks off the field after the end of the third day's play of 3rd cricket Test match against Australia in Mohali. (PTI)
Twirling the ends of his moustache, ear studs shining and an almost shaven head gleaming with sweat, Shikhar Dhawan looked more a street fighter.
But within a single session in the third Test against Australia on Saturday, he had built a new image. Holding his arms aloft and grinning ear to ear, he had just produced the fastest century ever by a Test debutant, rather cricket's version of a perfect storm.
The 27-year-old batsman smashed the first 106 runs between lunch and tea, the triple-figure mark coming off just 85 deliveries. His stunning knock of 185 not out left Australia shattered and India overjoyed that it could be the beginning for a new enforcer. Day 3
The knock matched up to some of the biggest impact innings India batsmen have played. Dhawan and Murali Vijay (83 not out) turned the match on its head in just four hours with a record 283-run unbroken stand that can fetch India victory as they reached within 125 runs of Australia's 408 all out before lunch. They say
Fans used to Virender Sehwag's murderous ways saw his Delhi understudy, who replaced him in the eleven, too wields a mean willow. Dhawan got into the squad after another Delhi teammate, Gautam Gambhir, was axed. By the time the powerful left-hander was done for the day, the focus was on how much more pain Dhawan can inflict on Australia on Sunday.
Dhawan played out the first three deliveries he faced and had one run from the first five. Then, Peter Siddle overpitched. It was driven through cover for four. And that was it. Vijay, as he did in Hyderabad to score 167, played himself in but Dhawan exploded. Anything pitched up was driven with power past cover or caressed past point. All were perfect cricketing shots, the feet moving nicely. The odd short one was pulled, the batsman quick to rock back while keeping the shot down. Shikhar says
Surviving a scare
Dhawan, who made a nought on ODI debut against the Aussies, was almost dismissed without facing a ball. Mitchell Starc, bowling the first delivery of the innings before lunch to Vijay, lost the ball, which bounced off his foot and hit the stumps with Dhawan backing too far. He would have been run out if the Aussies had appealed. But Starc, dismissed for 99 a brief while ago, picked up the ball and returned to the bowling mark.
It was a day when nothing could have stopped him. The openers targetted off-spinner Nathan Lyon, Clarke made quick changes but no bowler was spared. Dhawan's only blemish came on 94 when he flashed at a wide Siddle delivery, but a diving Phillip Hughes at gully could not reach it as it sped for four. With the crowd on its feet, he scrambled for the single off Siddle and put in a dive to seal the century. Vijay, continuing to play patiently (181 balls, 10x4, 2x6), helped keep his partner focused. Dhawan’s arc
The four-hour hammering also produced India's highest opening partnership against Australia. Dhawan (168 balls, 33x4, 2x6), also surpassed India's highest Test debut score of 137 --- by Gundappa Viswanath.
Australia's best effort of the series ended before lunch after Steven Smith (92) and Starc, both playing only due to the suspensions of Shane Watson and James Pattinson, came good. But it was only about one man at the end of the day.