Mohali, March 16: Shikhar Dhawan stole the show with the fastest century on debut as India raced to 156 for no loss in their first innings at tea on the third day of the third cricket Test against Australia at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here Saturday.
Dhawan was batting on 106 and Murali Vijay 42 as India reduced the deficit to 252 by the team break. Dhawan, 27, got his runs rapidly and struck 21 fours during his 91-ball unbeaten stand. Vijay played the role of second fiddle and gave good support to Dhawan.
Australia were bowled out for 408 shortly before lunch after Mitchell Starc top scored with a fine 99 and Steve Smith struck 92.
Vijay and Dhawan safely saw off the only over as the hosts took lunch at 3/0 in their first innings.
Dhawan was lucky to have survived a run out without a ball being faced. As Starc ran down for the first delivery, the ball slipped from his grip and the hit the stumps and Dhawan was short of crease. Australian captain Michael Clarke only had a laugh.
After the break, Dhawan was unstoppable. He set the tone with two crisply timed fours
off Peter Siddle in the fourth over. Dhawan greeted Moises Henriques with two delicate fours in medium pacer’s first over. In fact, Dhawan was severe on Henriques hitting six fours from his four overs, prompting Michael Clarke to take the youngster out of the attack.
Dhawan got to his maiden half-century with a four off Nathan Lyon through the mid-on in the 18th over. Vijay got into the act by smashing the off-spinner for two sixes in the last three balls as 17 runs came off the over.
Dhawan also severe on Xavie Dhoerty. He smashing the left-arm spinner for four fours as 18 runs came off the 23rd over and also jumped from 69 to 87. Dhawan completed his century with almost a suicidal single and got a standing ovation from the crowd.
Earlier, resuming at 273 for seven, the morning session was perhaps the best for Australia as they scored 135 runs losing the last three wickets.
Overnight batsmen, Smith and Starc added 97 runs for the eight wicket enroute to their best scores in Test cricket.
Smith, who made a comeback in Test side after a little more than two years, impressed with the responsibilities he shouldered with the tailenders.
It was an aggressive innings by Smith and he hit 10 fours and a six in his 185-ball knock before falling eight short of what would have been his maiden Test ton.
Smith became Pragyan Ojha (2/98) second victim after he was stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Meanwhile, Starc rose above his potential of being tailender and batted with purpose. The fast bowler smacked 14 fours during his 144-ball stay.
He came close to becoming the first Australian No.9 to get to three figures, but unfortunately it was not to be. Ray Lindwall was the last Australian No.9 to have scored a century, against England at the MCG in 1947.
Starc and Nathan Lyon (9 not out) added valuable 41 runs for the ninth wicket that took Australia to the threshold of 400-run mark.
Having added 79 to his personal score in the morning session, Starc needed just one run to reach the milestone. But he slashed hard at Ishant Sharma (3-77) and it flew to Dhoni, who snapped up a good catch that also left Australia stranded at 399/9.
Xavier Doherty (5) became Ravichandran Ashwin’s (2-97) second victim after he was trapped in front.