Chennai: For most part of the second day of this Test match, Virender Sehwag and Shane Warne jostled for attention for varying reasons, but in the end, the Australian leg-spinner admitted the Indian batsman was just 'too good for us'.
The hosts needed a solid showing from their batsmen in order to draw level the TVS series. Sehwag's 155 off 221 balls (including 21 boundaries) gave them the perfect platform to launch an all-out attack on the Australians, who are 56 in arrears at the close.
India badly needed Sehwag to be back among runs. With Sachin Tendulkar out of action ' the maestro left for Mumbai this morning ' Sehwag's flourish and the ability to destroy any attack is sure to have a psychological effect on the visitors.
He can unsettle McGrath's line, tear into Warne, and if these are achieved, the rest will automatically fall into place. It was, though, a slightly uncharacteristic Sehwag innings, in style and attitude. Never has he been so quiet, and yet, so effective. Both technically and temperamentally, his was a convincing performance against an attack aiming mainly at the narrow channel around the off stump.
Perhaps the presence of one Mr Sunil Gavaskar has got a lot to do with Sehwag's return to form. He is sure to have imbibed in him the qualities of patience and responsibilities of an opener. A victim of a wrong umpiring decision in the second innings in Bangalore, Sehwag seemed determined to make amends. It was only after completing his seventh hundred that a few of those lofted shots were taken.
Sehwag, however, didn't wish to highlight the Gavaskar factor. 'He has shared his experiences on how to motivate when the chips are down and the process of building an innings,' was all he had to say.
Apart from a few hits that landed in no-man's land, another umpiring error worked to Sehwag's advantage this time. At 101, he was adjudged not out after TV replays seemed to suggest that the ball came off the top of his gloves, when attempting the sweep, for Gilchrist to run back and collect the 'catch'.
Already reeling under extreme heat and humidity after more than a day's toil on the field, Australia will find the going tough. 'Even a 100-run lead will be of great advantage to the Indians,' feels Arun Lal.
Sehwag, too, felt the Indians had a good chance. 'Of course, we are in a very good position to win. A lead of around 150 will put pressure on Australia. If they want to make us bat again, they'll have to put a decent score which will be difficult in the circumstances.'
The wicket has become much slower, there's a tendency for the ball to keep low occasionally. For Australia, survival against Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble will be hard. At least past records don't suggest so in these conditions.
The pressures have begun to show on the world champions ' the misfields, the overthrows, the missed catches, et al. At least six catches were dropped in the slip cordon and the visitors seemed to struggle while taking low ones. While Sehwag hung on at one end, Rahul Dravid played the wrong line after getting his eye in. Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman looked clearly out of sorts. The Team India captain survived a catch at second slip off a no-ball from Michael Kasprowicz and was dropped by Gilchrist off the same bowler. Jason Gillespie finally sent him back.
Sehwag found an able foil in nightwatchman Irfan Pathan in the morning. He frustrated the attack for more than one-and-a-half hours before Warne removed him, caught at first slip by Matthew Hayden, for his world record 533rd wicket.
Gillespie proved to be the pick of the bowlers, varying his pace and bounce. When Sehwag departed to a tired shot, the Aussies threatened to make a comeback, but Mohammed Kaif and Parthiv Patel held on for an unbroken 58-run partnership.
The youngsters made full use of the drained attack, Kaif leading with some delectable and intelligent shots. They waited patiently for the lose balls and the shot-selection was good. Not to mention the running between the wickets with Kaif around.