Mohali: Australia's tour of turmoil has run into a new tormentor: Shikhar Dhawan. In Chennai it was MS Dhoni, in Hyderabad it was Cheteshwar Pujar and Murali Vijay, and on Saturday in Mohali up stepped Dhawan with the fastest debut century in Test history - a confidence-coated, boundary-laden 283 that dominated India's first double-century stand against Australia and their seventh best of all time.
Australia's bowlers had played a role in extending their team's total to 408 from an overnight 273 for 7, but were treated with disdain from Dhawan, who sped to a run-a-ball 50 and then galloped to three figures in another 35. The punishment never let up, and by stumps India had erased the deficit to 125 after Dhawan (185*) and Murali Vijay (83*) put on 283 without loss.
Dhawan's first run in Tests came with a single to cover, and his first four moments later when a well-timed drive pierced the off side. That was followed by a pull past square to get him purring. Dhawan's driving through the off side was particularly eye-catching. Whenever the ball was in his slot he unfurled punchy drives past cover and mid-off, the pick of the lot being shot off Moises Henriques that pinged the extra-cover boundary. Henriques was hit out of the attack by Dhawan - who also pulled well, ensuring to roll his wrists - and Xavier Doherty welcomed two firm boundaries through the covers.
Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay drove India to 283 for 0 at stumps on day three, just 125 runs behind Australia. (BCCI)
A superb on-drive off Nathan Lyon for four raised Dhawan's fifty off 50 balls; 48 of his first 53 runs had come in boundaries. As if to show that he too wanted to be counted, Vijay collected two sixes off the offspinner in the same over. But Dhawan was not about to slow down. Mitchell Starc's return to the attack saw Dhawan take two fours off the left-arm quick; then came an 18-run over in which Doherty was driven, reverse-swept and paddled for four boundaries. These were proper cricketing shots, with nothing in hit in the air.
Another push-drive for four off Starc took Dhawan into the nineties, and then on 94 he played his first shot in the air - and was dropped. Slashing at Peter Siddle, Dhawan gave Phillip Hughes at gully a tough chance to his right, but it was spilled and Dhawan sped to 98. The century came off his 85th delivery, as Dhawan tapped the ball to the off side and sprinted to the other end, getting home with a dive.
Dhawan's 25th boundary - driven through cover and point - put 200 on the board; it was the first time any Indian opening pair had achieved this against Australia in Tests. Dhawan celebrated by driving the next ball for four too, and when he advanced to loft Lyon for four over mid-on he surpassed GR Vishwanath's 137 as the highest score by an Indian on debut. By stumps, Dhawan had collected 33fours and two sixes and was poised to become the sixth batsman to reach 200 on debut.
Vijay was happy to play second fiddle through all this. His was another solid innings to follow his 167 in Hyderabad, and was littered with attractive strokes either side of the wicket. Every now and then Vijay would unfurl a pretty extra-cover drive or flick over the leg side, but otherwise silently went about his business. Dhawan dominated the stand but Vijay for the second innings in a row ensured himself a slice of partnership history.
Dhawan's audacious century and the double-century stand shoved into the back seat the pair of nineties that Steven Smith and Starc had scored in the morning as Australia's last three wickets put on 135 runs. Smith (92) and Starc (99) extended their overnight eighth-wicket stand to 97 and then Starc put on 51 with Lyon. It all looked pretty meaningless at the end of the day.