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Test on for young and old

James Pattinson was not even born when Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut. Yet it is this wildly contrasting pair – almost two decades apart in age – that have taken centre stage in an increasingly thrilling first Test in India’s deep south.

The young quick and the old craftsman. Pattinson, with a carefully rationed dose of explosive bowling, tore India’s top order to shreds. Tendulkar, opening a time capsule of his exquisite best, steered the hosts back on course.

Test cricket’s highest run-scorer begins day three at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday unbeaten on 71 and in sight of a 52nd Test century. In his company is the stylish, next-generation Virat Kohli (50 not out). India, in response to Australia’s first innings total of 380, have recovered from a Pattinson-inspired 2-12 to be in far more respectable shape at 3-182.

Tendulkar will remove a fair-sized monkey from his back – and send a heaving ground into pandemonium with 29 more runs on Sunday morning. He has not made a Test hundred in two years, and is two months short of his 40th birthday. He had averaged only 18.6 against England in his last series; he was meant to be finished. He may have been written off too soon.

"Obviously he's the prized wicket,” Pattinson said. “His record is unbelievable. I think it's just the presence that he has when he walks out there as well. He's got a lot more time when I bowl to him than other players and he picks the ball up quite easily. He's always definitely the wicket you want to pick up."


"You are always a chance of getting someone out, we come tomorrow and it’s a new day and we are right in the game. We were in a similar position in the Boxing Day Test last year and we came out the next day, bowled really well and went straight through them."

The Little Master sure does like Chennai. At no venue has he scored more Test centuries – he has five here and counting – so there was always the chance he would locate his mojo here again. Ominously, his last Test ton in India was against Australia, in 2010. Then, he went on to make 214.

It said something about the vintage touch Tendulkar has found that even Pattinson could not get under his skin. If the Indians had forgotten about the brash Victorian they were issued a firm reminder.

Two summers ago he made an instant impression against their all-star batting line-up, claiming 11 wickets in two Tests, most memorably rattling the stumps of Tendulkar himself in Sydney. Injury has interrupted the 22-year-old’s rapid ascent since but, three months after breaking down against South Africa in Adelaide, he was back and India were again in the firing line. Three wickets in 28 deliveries single-handedly undid their top three – all of them bowled.

"I just love the challenge really of coming in to bowl to people like Sehwag and Tendulkar, who I've grown up as a little tacker watching on TV,” said Pattinson. “I love playing against good players."

It took only eight balls for Pattinson to strike in their first innings just after lunch, theatrically removing opener Murali Vijay’s leg stump with a 150km/h thunderbolt and then, in his next over, coaxing with more sheer speed a spectacled Virender Sehwag to play on as well.

Used effectively by Michael Clarke in three-over cameos Pattinson returned in the second over of his next spell to crash a low flyer into the pegs of Cheteshwar Pujara, hitherto untroubled on 44.

Pattinson, reacquainting himself with foes he had tormented 13 months ago, allowed Australia to cash in on their investment in fast bowling rather than spin here, extracting their own treasures from a pitch with more red splotches than a teenager’s face. He bowled only six overs but made the pinch-hitting count, taking 3-25.

Only Tendulkar could withstand his onslaught at its peak. Thousands remained waiting in long, frustrating lines outside the ground as the veteran walked to the centre. Those fortunate to be in the venue greeted him with ear-piercing adulation.

When he stroked his first ball, from Pattinson, to the cover boundary, they went bananas. The next ball, louder still, as Tendulkar neatly caressed the Australian quick to backward point for another four. He finished the over with 12 runs to his name, guiding the last delivery to the third man rope for good measure. There were only three other boundaries from his blade for the afternoon but at times he was sublime. However, he survived  a very close leg-before shout from Nathan Lyon on 37.

Earlier, Clarke had been dismissed half an hour before lunch for 130, but not before surpassing Greg Chappell’s Test aggregate of 7110 runs, having gone beyond Don Bradman’s career total a day earlier. It was also the highest score by an Australian captain in India.