Hyderabad: Two strong sessions either side of a manic afternoon collapse left India firmly in command of the second Test, with a lead of 192 and eight Australian wickets to claim in two days for an unassailable 2-0 series lead. Such was the momentum of a record second-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara (204) and Murali Vijay (167) that India's collapse of seven wickets for 103 after lunch was made to appear almost insignificant. Australia had their task cut out facing a deficit of 266 but were let down by ill-advised sweep shots from David Warner and Phillip Hughes to finish the day on 74 for 2.
Monday's most action-packed session was the second, during which India succumbed to spin to go from 400 for 3 to 503. Australia were perked up almost immediately after lunch when Sachin Tendulkar was ruled caught-behind when he flicked a James Pattinson delivery down the pads; after much deliberation, a thin edge was indeed spotted. That brought to the crease MS Dhoni, who counter-attacked with a series of firm cuts and pulls to take India past 450 and the lead beyond 200.
Dhoni's quickfire cameo ended on 44 when he drove Glenn Maxwell to mid-off and the bowler grabbed his third, literally, by taking a smart return catch off Ravindra Jadeja. Maxwell was denied a fourth when Ed Cowan grassed R Ashwin on 0 before the over was up, but the allrounder became Xavier Doherty's first wicket in 42.2 overs when he poked to gully. Within minutes Doherty had two to his name when Harbhajan Singh wafted to mid-off. Cowan atoned for his drop by taking a one-handed catch at backward short leg off Virat Kohli, giving Maxwell his fourth, and Doherty finished the innings by having Bhuvneshwar Kumar stumped.
India lost their last seven wickets after lunch but the platform given by their overnight centurions Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay left the hosts in command.
This was followed by Warner and Cowan replying with a solid partnership, though they were helped by lapses in the field. Warner began by taking three fours off Ashwin's first over but was dropped on 13. Looking to cut Bhuvneshwar, Warner found Kohli at gully but the catch went down. Cowan then got a life on 0 when Dhoni dropped a one-handed take off Bhuvneshwar, who seamed the ball back in sharply to the left-hander. Those two drops let the openers off the hook early, while Bhuvneshwar took to the outfield after a luckless spell (6-4-7-0).
Warner hit a straight six off Ashwin to put 50 on the board but fell to the same bowler for 26, missing a sweep. Hughes suffered the same fate and picked up his third 0 of the series. Cowan was slow to open his account - 29 balls - but quick to cash in on errors in length; he was particularly strong off the back foot and cut the spinners well. He and Shane Watson were batting at stumps.
In the morning session, India had scored 89 for the loss of their two overnight centurions, who fell within moments of each other after extending their alliance to an India record of 370. Vijay became the 16th Indian opener to make 150+ in Tests, while Pujara recorded his second double-century in 11 matches. Having put on 151 in the final session on day two, Pujara and Vijay added 76 before the latter fell for 167. The Pujara-Vijay stand surpassed the previous second-wicket best for India in Tests, the 344 between Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar against West Indies at Kolkata in 1978, and Pujara also became the second-fastest Indian to the landmark of 1000 runs.
The breakthrough finally came in the 118th over - 109.4 overs after the first - as Vijay fended a rising delivery from Maxwell to backward short leg. His wicket came with the partnership just six short of the historic Rahul Dravid-VVS Laxman partnership at Eden Gardens but the cheers for Tendulkar engulfed the ground and left Australia visibly deflated. Pujara drove Maxwell past mid-on to move to 203, embraced Tendulkar, but could add just one run to his total before pulling a Pattinson bouncer to long leg.
India took lunch on 400 for 3, a lead of 163, and despite the flurry of wickets in the afternoon they finished the day on top.
Can India finish off the match on Tuesday?