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Vijay ton, Rahane put India in strong position on day 1 at The Gabba

Opener Murali Vijay cracked a fluent 144 as India put up a solid batting display to take the honours on the opening day of the second cricket Test against Australia by reaching a comfortable 311 for four here today.

30-year-old Vijay, who missed a century by one run in the second innings in Adelaide, notched up his fifth Test ton to guide India to a good position on a hot day at the Gabba.

Vijay was dropped by Shaun Marsh on 36 off paceman Mitchell Johnson but he capitalised on the reprieve by punishing the Australians, scoring 144 off 213 balls.

The right-handed opener got good support from Rahane (batting 75) as the duo shared a 124-run stand for the fourth wicket with the Australian pacers struggling to find any rhythm in the hot and humid conditions.

Vijay was again dropped on 102 by Shaun again off Johnson but he could not cash in on the second chance. Apart from the two chances he gave to the Australians, Vijay stroked well throughout in his innings which he paced very well.

He looked at ease against the Australian pace battery and effortlessly drove the fast bowlers. He was hardly troubled by Nathan Lyon until he charged the spinner to be caught behind.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had taken a bold decision to bat on the green and pacy Gabba wicket and his decision stood vindicated as Indian batsmen responded well to the call. Rahane was batting on well and giving him company was Rohit Sharma (26 batting) when stumps were drawn for the day.

Shikhar Dhawan (24) was a disappointment as he yet again failed but Cheteshwar Pujara (18) was unlucky to be given caught behind off debutant Hazlewood while dodging a high ball as it touched his helmet’s visor and not his gloves.

Virat Kohli, who scored two hundreds in the lost Adelaide Test, made a good start but was guilty of cutting a ball which was too close to the body and was caught behind off Hazlewood.

Vijay began the post-tea session at 73 and after grinding his way through the day, started attacking the bowling in the last couple of hours of play. His hundred came up in the fourth over after resumption of the innings in the last session.

The opener took full advantage of the tiring fielding side as the hot temperatures at the Gabba surely affected the hosts. Vijay opened up after reaching his century, picking boundaries at will, against both pace and spin. India were in a totally commanding position as Vijay and Rahane added 72 runs in 12 overs after tea.

Rahane reached his sixth Test half-century in the 71st over, as their partnership crossed the 100-run mark, and threatened to put Australia on the backfoot. In the next over though, Vijay was caught behind off Lyon, bringing an end to a fantastic knock in overseas conditions.

Afterwards, Rahane and Rohit kept up the momentum, even as the hosts tried up different bowlers. But nothing worked as India crossed the 300-run mark in the 81st over after the second new ball had been taken. The slow over-rate meant that play was called off with seven overs remaining in the day.

Earlier, Vijay and Dhawan looked solid even as Hazlewood and Mitchell Johnson moved the new ball well but could not create enough chances to trouble the batsmen.

Vijay was quickly off the blocks and kept the scorecard ticking. In the first hour of play, wherein 12 overs were bowled, 49 runs came without any loss as the Indian openers moved along at more than four per over.

The 50-run mark came up for India in the 13th over, a first instance since Lord’s in 2011 when the opening pair had put up a 50-plus partnership in overseas Tests.

Back then too, a Delhi-Tamil Nadu partnership was at the crease as Gautam Gambhir and Abhinav Mukund had put on 63 runs against England. But Vijay-Dhawan couldn’t do as much as the latter was caught behind off Mitchell Marsh in the 14th over with the score reading 56.

Vijay should have been out as well, when in the very next over, Shaun Marsh dropped him off Johnson at third slip. Spinner Lyon was introduced into the attack in the 18th over but it was late in comparison to the Adelaide Test when he had bowled in both Indian innings within the first ten overs.

In the post-lunch session, Vijay had Pujara with him in the middle and they looked to increase their 33-run stand for the second wicket.

Vijay brought up his fifty in the first over after the lunch break with a cover drive off Starc. The hosts suffered another injury blow as Mitchell Marsh hobbled off with a right hamstring pull.

Young skipper Steve Smith then deployed his two left-arm pacemen Johnson and Starc in tandem but it didn’t have much impression on the two batsmen, who looked to leave the ball as much as possible.

The 100-run mark came up for India in the 31st over and the duo had added 44 runs until then, looking good for a lot more. But umpire Ian Gould ended Pujara’s innings with his decision in the 34th over.

The batsman was stunned by the horrible decision and was almost reluctant to walk back to the dressing room. Twin-centurion from the first Test, Kohli was also dismissed by Hazlewood and the lanky pacer immediately had new batsman Rahane in all sorts of trouble.

He squared him up off the first delivery Rahane faced. Then Hazlewood nearly had a return catch as the ball lobbed off his bat but fell just out of reach. Even as Rahane struggled to retain composure, Vijay meanwhile stayed solid at the other end, as India’s 150-mark came up in the 50th over.

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