Virender Sehwag ensured India made an emphatic response to Australia's competitive total on Day 2 of the first Test at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday.
The aggressive batsman, considered the key to India's fortunes in the match, reposed the faith with a whirlwind 59. His effort helped the home side begin their chase on a high note. However, his dismissal just before close of play saw the day end with honours even.
At stumps, Indiaï¿½had put upï¿½110 for two (in 21 overs), 318 runs adrift of the visitors' first innings score, with Rahul Dravid unbeaten on 21 and night-watchman Ishant Sharma batting on nought.
Mitchell Johnson was the pick ofï¿½Australia's bowlers with figures of two for 29.
Earlier, the visitors scored 428 in their opening essay. Zaheer Khan's fiver (five for 94) helped India to eventually end some resolute Australian resistance in the final session.
If it was Shane Watson (126) who held fort for the visitors on day one, on day two it was newbie Time Paine. The stumper gaveï¿½the home side a period of extended agony with an aggressive and invaluable 92, his first Test fifty.
However, Australia were helped considerably by some sloppy fielding (read dropped catches) by the hosts as also resolute rearguard action.
It left the home team 26 overs to negotiate before close of play. They eventually played only 21.
A quickfire opening wicket stand of 81 between Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir (25) saw the Indian reply remain on the right track ahead of the third day.
Morning session: (71 runs, 29 overs, 1 wicket)
Australia began day two on a cautious note, akin to how they ended the opening day. Just seven runs came off the opening eight overs.
Ishant Sharma, who had retired injured on the opening day, took to the field but did not open the bowling with Zaheer Khan.
Instead, it was Harbhajan Singh who was handed the ball.
The most vital moment in the first five overs came when Zaheer induced an edge off Watson's blade only to see the ball drop just in front of M S Dhoni.
Pragyan Ojha was introduced into the attack in the seventh over. And the first boundary of the day came in Ojha's second over -- the day's ninth -- when Watson played a crackling cover drive.
Paine helped himself to a first boundary with a glance to fine-leg when Zaheer returned for his second spell.
The duo put on 53 runs for the sixth wicket.
Then Harbhajan struck.
The offie had the dangerous Watson (126) caught byï¿½Gambhir at short leg. Watson and Tim Paine put on 53 runs for the sixth wicket.
Watson's epic 338-ball stay was inclusive of 10 hits to the fence while occupying the crease for a whopping 459 minutes. It was his highest Test score, surpassing the 119 he made against Pakistan in Melbourne last year.
Mitchell Johnson announced his arrival by smashing a Harbhajan delivery over long-on and deep midwicket for maximum. It was the first six of the Australian innings.
Earlier, India started the second day with the upperhand, having had the visitors on the mat in the final session of the opening day.
Australia began the day at 224 for five, having managed just 45 runs in the final session on day one.
Post-lunch session: (95 runs, 26 overs, 2 wickets)
It was Johnson who started the aggression in the second session, first with a boundary to cover point off Harbhajan and then successive boundaries off Zaheer three overs later. He then smashed Ojha for yet another six.
He soon reached the 1000 Test run mark (when on 31) to complete the 1000 runs and 100 wickets double in his 37th Test. He became the 12th Australian and 57th in the world to achieved the feat.
Paine also reached his maiden Test fifty soon after with a single off Harbhajan. The duo had, in the meanwhile, put on an invaluable 82-run partnership for the seventh wicket for the visitors.
However, Zaheer's return ensured Johnson's wicket with the first ball. Zaheer had the Australian caught behind.
Johnson's 66-ball 47 was inclusive of five hits to the fence and three over it, all off Ojha's bowling.
Nathan Hauritz (9) didn't survive long, Harbhajan having him caught by Gautam Gambhir at short leg. Hilfenhaus announced his arrival with a massive six off Ojha over long-on.
The second session also witnessed Ishant bowling a few overs.
Australia: (38 runs, 6.2 overs, 2 wickets)
Paine scored a test best 92 to prolong Indian agony. The stumper's 196-ball knock was inclusive of a dozen boundaries.
He put on a crucial 54 runs for a ninth wicket with Ben Hilfenhaus (20 not out).
However, Zaheer had him caught by VVS Laxman at second slip to complete his five-wicket haul.
It was Zaheer's 10th five-wicket haul in his 73rd Test, and the third occasion he had achieved the feat against Australia.
In the next over, Ojha dropped Hilfenhaus off his own bowling. However, three balls later he finally gotï¿½reward for his perseverance -- he bowled a whopping 51.4 overs -- when he had Doug Bollinger (0) caught by Ishant Sharma at long-on.
Bollinger's dismissal endedï¿½Australian resistance that had frustrated the Indians for more than two sessions, with three 50-plus partnerships beingï¿½contributed by a wagging tail.
The last five wickets saw the addition of 226 runs to Australia's total.
India: (110 runs, 21 overs, 2 wickets)
Sehwag loosened up hitting two boundaries, both through covers, off Doug Bollinger. A third boundary, off the same bowler, a few overs later helped Sehwag complete 1, 500 Test runs against the team from Down Under. He celebrated the same with a fourth in the next ball.
What followed was a blitzkrieg that has over the years become synonymous with Sehwag's batting.
The opener, having attacked Bollinger to begin with, turned his attention to Ben Hilfenhaus after the former was taken off the attack.
Three boundaries came off Hilfenhaus's sixth over -- the 11th of the innings, with the first of them ensuring the 50-run partnership between Sehwag and Gambhir - the 17th occasion in Tests that the duo had featured in such a stand and ensured India a perfect start.
Nathan Hauritz was introduced into the attack in the 13th over, and Sehwag welcomed him with two successive hits to the fence, both through covers.
Another single took the batsman to his 23rd Test fifty, his eighth against the team from Down Under. It had taken him just 38 balls to reach the landmark and he had hit nine fours en route.
However, the visitors eventually secured a breakthrough in the next over, with Mitchell Johnson trapping Gambhir leg before.
The opening wicket partnership had yielded the home team 81 runs off just 80 balls. However, at the same time, it had also come to an abrupt end.
In came Rahul Dravid, and he was quick to adjust. But, by then, Sehwag had run out of steam.
Johnson ensured Australia a second breakthrough when he has the dangerous opener caught by Michael Clarke at covers. Sehwag's 54-ball knock was inclusive of 10 hits to the fence.