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 take a slight advantage in the first Test against Australia, in Melbourne, on Tuesday.
After dismissing Australia for 333 in the first innings, the Indians rode on useful contributions from most of the top-order batsmen to post 214 for 3 by 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 the third-man region.
The foundation of India's reply was a solid 117-run third wicket partnership between Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (68 not out).
Opener Virender Sehwag gave the visitors a good start as he smashed a quickfire 67 after being dropped twice on 54 and 58 respectively.
The Australians were also unlucky as a Siddle in-dipper breached Dravid's defences but television replays confirmed that the speedster had bowled a no-ball.
Dravid was batting on 65 then and the team's score was 202 for 2.
Only Gautam Gambhir (3) failed among the top four; he was done in by the awkward bounce and away movement generated by Ben Hilfenhaus and caught behind.
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 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 for runs.
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, who was treated with utter disdain by the Indian batsmen.
Lyon was twice introduced and taken off the attack in a hurry when Sehwag launched into him with two successive fours down the ground, and later Tendulkar and Dravid milked him at will. The bowler ended the day giving away 53 runs from 14 wicketless overs.
Tendulkar walked in to a standing ovation from the sizeable crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but was edgy in his little stay before the tea break.
But, on resumption, he appeared to come out with a definite plan, and upper cut a Siddle delivery over third man for a six immediately after the tea break.
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 boundaries.
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 the physio's attention.
Tendulkar, at the other end, was in a zone of his own and sweetly lofted Lyon over mid-off 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.
The right-handed opener batted for 127 minutes and faced 83 balls to hit seven fours in his quickfire 67 which rattled the Australians and brought cheers from a sizeable Indian presence in the stands.
Sehwag, let off on 54 and 58, finally fell to James Pattinson when he aimed an expansive drive through the covers and inside edged it on to his stumps.
Pattinson, the young tearaway quick, was earlier rattled by Sehwag's antics and the two were involved in a verbal duel after the Indian opener took a single off the bowler. Sehwag was angry that he could have been injured by Pattinson's elbow and gave it back to the bowler.
The big-bodied speedster retaliated with support from Siddle who was standing at mid-on. Umpire Marais Erasmus had to step in and calm the players.
Sehwag, typically, played and missed quite often in the initial phase of his career but also carted some bold strokes which played on to the nerves of the Australians.
The opener's booming shots weren't seen straightaway but when he flayed Patterson to four through the covers in the fifth over, the opener was up and away.
Sehwag then carved first-change Peter Siddle over slips which almost went for a six over the third-man region. He then followed it up with two consecutive fours of the fast bowler --- one smashed through the covers and the second one deliberately steered through the slip cordon.
Sehwag took a fancy of off-spinner Lyon, introduced early in the innings, and twice flayed him down the ground for boundaries. The first such shot brought up his half-century off 59 balls with five fours.
The Delhi opener, who completed 8,000 runs in Test cricket during his innings, then lofted Lyon which almost carried to David Warner at long-on. In the very next over, he edged Pattinson but wicketkeeper Haddin couldn't hold on to the chance on his right.
Just before the tea break, Pattinson again roared up in appeal for a catch to forward short leg but it was clear the ball had taken off Sehwag's thighpads.
In the morning, Brad Haddin (27) and Peter Siddle (41) were gone in a jiffy to Zaheer Khan but the ninth wicket pair of James Pattinson (18 not out) and Ben Hilfenhaus (19) stayed put for 45 minutes and 27 runs which took the hosts past the 300-run mark.