MELBOURNE, Dec 27 (PTI): Sachin Tendulkar gave glimpses of his vintage form but the record 100th international century continued to elude him as India responded with a strong batting display to keep the first cricket Test against Australia on an even keel here today.
After dismissing Australia for 333 in the first innings, Indians rode on useful contributions from most of the top-order batsmen to reach 214 for three at close on the second day.
Tendulkar who looked fluent during his innings of 73 was done in by a beauty from Peter Siddle. The delivery cut back sharply at a scorching pace as the senior pro tried to reach for a drive only to be bowled through the gate. He hit eight boundaries and a six off Siddle with his trademark upper cut over third-man region.
The foundation of India�s reply was a solid 117-run third wicket partnership between Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (68 batting) after opener Virender Sehwag smashed a quickfire 67 after being dropped twice on 54 and 58 respectively.
Australians were also unlucky as a Siddle in-dipper breached Dravid�s defences but the TV replays confirmed that the speedster had bowled a no-ball. Dravid was batting on 65 then and the team�s score was 202 for two.
Only Gautam Gambhir (3) failed among the top four as he was done in by the awkward bounce and away movement generated by Ben Hilfenhaus.
Earlier Australia, resuming at their overnight score of 277 for 6, were all out for 333, half an hour before lunch break with Zaheer Khan (4 for 77), Umesh Yadav (3 for 106) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3 for 81) sharing the spoils.
Dravid has now batted for more than four hours (245 minutes) facing 185 deliveries in the process. He has hit six boundaries.
The performance of the troika of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dravid has again proved that India�s ageing stalwarts haven�t yet lost the hunger.
Admittedly, all the three fast bowlers, Siddle, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus, bowled well in patches but the weakest link was off-spinner Nathan Lyon whom Indian batsmen treated with utter disdain.
Lyon was twice introduced and taken off the attack in a hurry when Virender Sehwag launched into him with two successive fours down the ground and later Tendulkar and Dravid milked him at will.
Lyon ended the day giving away 53 runs from 14 wicketless overs.
Tendulkar walked in to a standing ovation at MCG but was edgy in his little stay before the tea break.
But on resumption, he appeared to have come out with a definite plan and upper cut a Siddle delivery over third man for a six. Tendulkar carted Siddle for two more boundaries � an upper cut between third slip and gully and a lovely cover drive.
He then essayed two gorgeous drives on either side of the wicket off Ben Hilfenhaus to move into 30s while Dravid stayed on 38 at the other end.
Dravid though was the first one to reach his half century, slashing at a Siddle delivery which went over slips for a four. Dravid�s 50 took him 178 minutes and 137 balls and contained four fours.
Tendulkar followed him soon with a push down to long on off Lyon, having batted for only 55 minutes and hit six fours and a six during his knock.
The scoring pattern slowed down a little in the final hour as Dravid appeared to be suffering from cramps in his leg and needed attention.
Tendulkar, at the other end, was in a zone of his own and sweetly lofted Lyon over midoff to move into the 60s. A flick for three off Pattinson in the closing minutes made him the highest scorer in the match so far.
Earlier, Sehwag smashed a quickfire 67 but was dismissed just before tea-break as India reached 99 for 2.
Australia 1st innings: (Overnight 277/6) Ed Cowan c Dhoni n Ashwin 68, David Warner c Dhoni b Yadav 37, Shaun Marsh c Kohli b Yadav 0, Ricky Ponting c Laxman b Yadav 62, Michael Clarke b Khan 31, Mike Hussey c Dhoni b Khan 0, Brad Haddin c Sehwag b Khan 27, Peter Siddle c Dhoni b Khan 41, James Pattinson not out 18, Ben Hilfenhaus c Kohli b Ashwin 19, Nathan Lyon b Ashwin 6. Extras: (LB-21, WD-2, NB-1) 24. Total: (All out in 110 overs ) 333. Fall of wickets: 1-46, 2-46, 3-159, 4-205, 5-205, 6-214, 7-286, 8-291, 9-318. Bowling: Zaheer Khan 31-6-77-4, Ishant Sharma 24-7-48-0, Umesh Yadav 26-5-106-3, R Ashwin 29-3-81-3.
India 1st Innings: Gautam Gambhir c Haddin b Hilfenhuas 3, Virender Sehwag b Pattinson 67, Rahul Dravid batting 68, Sachin Tendukar b Siddle 73, Ishant Sharma batting 0. Extras: (WD-1, NB-2) 3. Total: (For 3 wickets in 65 overs) 214. Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-97, 3-214. Bowling: J Pattinson 15-3-35-1, B Hilfenhaus 14-1-50-1, P Siddle 15-2-53-1, N Lyon 14-2-53-0, M Hussey 5-0-15-0, D Warner 2-0-8-0.