Vijay and heat make India's day

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Old 17-Dec-2014
Post Vijay and heat make India's day

If there was a hint of south India about Brisbane's unrelenting tropical heat and humidity, then M Vijay ensured a corner of this foreign field would be forever Chennai by carving out a memorable century to set the platform for a dominant 4 for 311 at stumps on day one of the second Test at the Gabba.

Having fallen one run short of a hundred on the final day in Adelaide, Vijay found the right method on a far more steepling surface, leaving the ball well while also collecting runs right around the ground. He made the majority of his runs in the first and third sessions, waiting out an afternoon during which Josh Hazlewood showed his readiness for the baggy green cap handed to him by Glenn McGrath before play.

Ajinkya Rahane was the man who made the most of Vijay's platform. He had not convinced in Adelaide but hustled into his work with an energy that contrasted with Australia's growing fatigue.

Vijay was fortunate to survive two chances dropped by Shaun Marsh, emblematic of a difficult first day of captaincy for Australia's new leader Steven Smith. The hosts were unable to take the early wickets that might have alleviated their toil in high temperatures and unstinting sun. Mitchell Marsh was lost to a right hamstring problem, Mitchell Starc suffered from heat-related fatigue, and Smith was unable to keep the team's over rate under control.

Warner and Smith both bowled by day's end, and even Hazlewood could not see out the day. He complained of discomfort when he took the second new ball and left Shane Watson to complete the over at gentle medium pace. Australia entered the match with no fewer than six frontline bowling options - they may now have as few as three.

Hazlewood had been the beneficiary of a hasty raised finger from the umpire Ian Gould when Cheteshwar Pujara had been grazed on the helmet rather than the glove, and when he found useful bounce to also dismiss Virat Kohli, Australia had some chance of cutting down India's middle order. But Vijay endured, and by the time he essayed a tired sally down the wicket at Nathan Lyon, the visitors' advantage was pronounced.

MS Dhoni had unveiled a side featuring three changes - his own return, plus the additions of R Ashwin and Umesh Yadav for Karn Sharma and Mohammed Shami. In addition to Australia having a new captain in Smith, the hosts included Shaun Marsh, Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc for the injured Michael Clarke and Ryan Harris, while Peter Siddle was dropped.

The Gabba pitch was hard and evenly grassed, promising some early pace and movement for Australia's fast men, and a significant challenge for India's top three. But Vijay and Dhawan began firmly enough, leaving the ball well, countering a hint of new-ball swing for Johnson and Hazlewood, and moving things a long with a few well-chosen strokes.

One early Johnson short ball to Vijay might have been gloved to leg gully had Smith posted one, but otherwise the first hour passed with remarkably few dramas for India's opening pair. Mitchell Marsh was clattered to the point boundary by Vijay when he pitched short, but when he tried another half-tracker after morning drinks, Dhawan could only touch it on the way through to Brad Haddin. Marsh had waited 346 balls and four Tests for that moment.

Johnson's second spell was a tad more venomous than his first, and in the next over after Dhawan's exit he coaxed an edge from Vijay that flew at low but eminently catchable height into the slips. However Shaun Marsh tried to perform the party trick of catching this daisy cutter with his hands pointing to the sky, and felled the chance.

There was time for Nathan Lyon to suggest he will enjoy Brisbane's bounce before lunch, and for Pujara to inside edge past the stumps in the final over of the session, but overall the visitors had reason to be happy with their work.

Pujara and Vijay carried on smoothly enough into the afternoon, and it was Australia feeling pressured when Mitchell Marsh felt soreness in his right hamstring and left the field. With temperatures touching 35C, plus humidity, Starc also sought relief after appearing to complain of fatigue.

However a pair of wickets for Hazlewood kept the match finely balanced. The first of Pujara was the result of an error by the umpire Gould - a well-placed short ball had glanced helmet rather than glove on its way through to Brad Haddin. The second was a miscalculation by Kohli, who chanced an Adelaide cut at Brisbane bounce and snicked behind.

The wickets, plus some sturdy fielding, prevented India from getting away from the hosts. But Vijay remained unflappable, and over a lengthy evening session that lasted two and a half hours but still featured only 31 of the 38 overs due to be bowled, with Rahane solid at his end, India took control.

Having gone to tea at 3 for 151, they piled up 1 for 160 in the evening, losing only Vijay. Day two is set fair for Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Dhoni and R Ashwin to make merry against an Australian attack that was flagging badly by the end. Under sub-tropical skies they had foundered on the rock of Vijay's blade.

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