Mohali: Shikhar Dhawan rewrote the definition of Test cricket on Saturday as he guided India to a commanding position in the third Test.
The Delhi opener, who replaced Virender Sehwag in the side, smashed a breathtaking unbeaten 185 off just 168 balls to take India to a stunning 283 for three, at stumps, on Day III.
Giving him able company is Murali Vijay, who played the supporter’s role to the tee and remained unbeaten at 83, at the end of the day’s play.
Together, Dhawan and Vijay recorded the highest first-wicket partnership for India against Australia and the best opening stand in Mohali.
India still trail Australia by 125 runs, but then with 10 wickets in hand, they have nothing to worry about.
It was a day of records.
The 27-year-old Dhawan was on a record-breaking spree as he raced to his century off just 85 balls to become the fastest century-maker on debut.
He surpassed the record of West Indian Dwayne Smith, who had reached his hundred off 93 balls, against South Africa, in Cape Town, in 2004.
There are more. Dhawan also became the highest individual scorer for India on debut, beating the previous record held by Gundappa Vishwanath (137), against Australia, at the Eden, in 1969-70.
Against a run rate of 4.87, the Australians must be wondering if the IPL has already begun.
Dhawan slammed 33 fours and two sixes during his blistering innings, and yet he never really gave a chance. Only once, a thick edge flew past gully, but that was not even half a chance.
Runs flowed from every corner of the ground as a whopping 418 runs were scored on the day.
Between lunch and tea, India scored 153 runs in 28 overs. In the last session they slowed down a little, but even that was fast by the standards of Test cricket. They got 127 off 29 overs in the final session of play.
With a strike rate of 110.11, it is not difficult to imagine how masterfully Dhawan batted. Dhawan reached 150 off 131 balls.
Be it a spinner or pacer, Dhawan batted like a man possessed on Saturday. Finding gaps with surgical precision, he hit boundaries to almost every corner of the ground. From the pulls to the pushes, everything was there in his innings. The Australian bowlers looked school-boyish in front of the Dhawan assault.
Earlier in the day, one run was all that separated Mitchell Starc from becoming the first No.9 Australian batsman to notch up a century in India
Though he missed out on the hundred by a whisker, Starc, along with Steven Smith (92), frustrated the Indians for the entire first session.
Australia added invaluable 135 runs to their overnight score thereby getting 408 in their first innings.
If pre-lunch was about the Australians’ dogged resistance, the post lunch session saw India toying with their opposition.
Dhawan has the blessing of fantastic timing. It always looked that he has enough time to make the bat meet the ball. The Australians, literally, had no answer to counter Dhawan's strokeplay.
He was piercing the gaps with ease, no matter what the field settings were. When he reached fifty, the numbers showed that he had scored 48 runs just in boundaries.
Earlier, Starc was caught-behind on 99 by Dhoni off Ishant Sharma, which also dashed his hopes of becoming the first Australian in 66 years to score a century while batting at this position.
Ray Lindwall had scored an even 100 against England at the MCG in 1947, while coming out at No.9. Starc smashed 14 fours and faced 144 balls during his 146-minute stay at the crease. The 23-year-old left-hander from New South Wales was confidence personified.
Steven Smith, too, made his presence felt, a career-best score that included 10 boundaries and a six.