India raced to a record score of 443/1 at the end of day's play on the second day of the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka. Virender Sehwag, who is unbeaten on 284, plundered runs at will as he notched up his 17th Test century and his sixth 200-plus total
Late on Thursday, Virender Sehwag whipped paceman Angelo Mathews from the off-stump. There were two men guarding the fence, at deep square-leg and a squarish fine-leg. The ball raced to the boundary, bisecting them.
Sehwag's pulse-pounding unbeaten 284 at the Brabourne Stadium on the second day of the third Test was not about power alone. His astonishing effort was marked by timing and placement. The intrepidopener's natural ability was backed by an incisive cricketing mind.
The man galloping on his skills innovated and created. His was an inspired innings of breathtaking brilliance; an effort conjured than constructed. It was also an epic knock at a venue steeped in history.
Vijay's organised batting
Opener Murali Vijay (87) - he impressed with his organised batting and cultured strokeplay - and a solid Rahul Dravid (62 batting) donned crucial supporting roles. India, replying to Sri Lanka's 393, raced to 443 for one in just 79 overs of batting on the second day of the third Test.
It was also a day of records. Despite the host batting 36 minutes after start in the morning, 443 is the most runs scored by India in a day in Tests. Sehwag's 284 runs in a day ranks only behind Walter Hammond's 295 and Don Bradman's 309. And Sehwag's 200 – reached in a mere 168 balls – is the second quickest in Tests.
But then, Sehwag's batsmanship and transcended numbers. It was a celebration of attacking batsmanship. Neither the nature of the pitch nor the reputation of the bowler mattered as Sehwag, his mind uncluttered and stroke-play decisive, dismissed the attack ruthlessly.
Towards stumps, he was put down at slip at slip by Mahela Jayawardene off occasional spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan. The aggressive batsman will return on Friday.
Denting the Sri Lankans psychologically, Sehwag built two major partnerships with Vijay and Dravid. The experienced Dravid wisely played second fiddle but essayed a couple of lovely late cuts.
Sehwag was dominant. He was also smart to change his game-plan. When left-arm-spinner Ranagana Herath attempted a negative line from over-the-wicket, Sehwag, switching to a rather open stance, skipped down the track for rousing inside-out cover drives.
If spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Rangana Herath were principal threats for India, Sehwag flayed them with nimble footwork. Not allowing the ball to spin by getting to the pitch, he lofted Muralitharan and Herath effortlessly and repeatedly between long-off and mid-wicket for sixes.
Bounce in Brabourne suits Sehwag
Apart from unleashing the big blows, Sehwag played the ball late and with the spin for delicate shots between point and third man. And he swept and reverse swept to disrupt the line of the spinners.
Gradually, the close-in fielders disappeared even as the stands filled up. The bounce in the Brabourne wicket suited Sehwag. On those occasions when he was not giving spinners the charge or striking the pacemen in front of the wicket, Sehwag got on top of the ball to harness the pace and the lift.
Along the years, Sehwag has evolved as a batsman. Of course, he dismissed paceman Chanaka Welegedara and Nuwan Kulasekara when they offered him width; his cuts and cover-drives rocketed to the fence. He also drove straight and hard down-the-ground, flicked and glanced with panache. Sehwag is a vastly improved batsman on the leg-side.
Earlier, Vijay impressed. The technical purity in his batsmanship stems from balance in both defence and offence of either foot.
Crucially, he has a wonderfully relaxed stance where he is poised and ready to meet the ball even if he does not ground his bat.
This was a day when Vijay was refreshingly positive with his stroke-play. On a few occasions, he did no more than just time the ball. Just before lunch, he eased into what appeared no more than a front-footed push off Muralitharan. The ball raced to the boundary through the off-side field.
When Welegedara provided a hint of width he was caressed through covers; Vijay was getting to the pitch of the ball in a manner that was fluid.
Light on his feet, Vijay lofted Muralitharan with the spin over the mid-wicket fence. Reprieved at wide mid-on at 67 off Kulasekara, Vijay was eventually adjudged leg-before attempting to sweep a one-finger slower, fuller ball from Herath.
In the morning, Angelo Mathews, who continued to bat with a mix of luck and flourish, was tragically run-out for 99; beaten by a precise throw by Tendulkar from deep square-leg to the 'keeper.
Then, the Sri Lankans ran into whirlwind Sehwag.