Mohali:Sachin Tendulkar is Australia's longest-serving tormentor and he was joined by his side's newest member in keeping India in touch after three days in Mohali. However, Mitchell Johnson's five-wicket haul brightened Australia's mood as they finished a tough day with a well-earned 23-run lead after dismissing the hosts for 405.
Johnson struck late to remove MS Dhoni (14), who was given out caught low down by Shane Watson at first slip in a confusing decision, and Harbhajan Singh edged behind next ball. Another key breakthrough came when Suresh Raina played back to Johnson and was lbw shortly before the close, giving him 5 for 64 from 20 overs.
It was a timely comeback for the tourists after they experienced difficult periods from their junior and senior opponents. Raina, 23, is 14 years younger than Tendulkar and was happy to take more risks - he out-scored Tendulkar in the stand of 124 - while the older man was typically calculating.
Tendulkar first started giving Australians nightmares in 1990-91 and almost 20 years later spent much of the third day introducing himself to some new wearers of baggy greens. His classy 98 was backed up by Raina's often streaky 86 and a composed 77 from Rahul Dravid.
At his best Tendulkar has buried Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, so in reality facing Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Hauritz was a pretty comfortable assignment. He still made it a thing of beauty at times, particularly with his effortless pushes through cover and his range of sweeps.
Tendulkar now has 10 hundreds and 12 half-centuries in 30 Tests against Australia while averaging almost 57. Bollinger and Hilfenhaus had not bowled to him before in a Test, and Hauritz had run into him only once, getting him in Mumbai on debut in 2004.
Hilfenhaus watched Tendulkar caress a handful of memorable cover-drives throughout the display and the batsman started the middle session with a clever late cut against the same bowler. Another cover-drive, this time to Bollinger, was special enough for Tendulkar to punch gloves with Dravid, and then it was Hauritz's turn to gape. A sweep from outside off went to square leg for four and Hauritz's next ball was even wider, but it travelled to the rope at midwicket.
Tendulkar was rarely rushed - a couple of thick edges fell short of the slips off Johnson - and after tea he allowed Raina to aim the bigger shots, although he charged Marcus North and hit over mid-off to go into the 90s. He was two short of his 49th century when he pushed across the line at a quicker ball from North and was lbw, walking off in a silent stadium. North could hardly believe his success in his first Test bowl against Tendulkar.
Raina, who entered at No.5 due to VVS Laxman's back problem, continued to impress in his third Test, adding to his previous scores of 120, 62 and 41 not out. Bollinger, finding some fire in the warm conditions, hit Raina on the shoulder early in his innings as the batsman turned his head away. He also survived a missed stumping on 48 and was almost taken at mid-off on 60 when the ball dropped just short of Johnson.
In between he crunched boundaries on the up through the offside, collecting 14 fours from 128 balls, including a glance to bring up his half-century. There was a chance Raina would reach his hundred before stumps but he had to tone down when Johnson removed two team-mates and Hauritz bowled Zaheer Khan. The change in mood was terminal.
The first two rewards of the day went to Bollinger (2 for 49), who bowled the nightwatchman Ishant Sharma (18) and took care of Dravid. Hauritz also hung in after some punishment to finish off the innings with 2 for 116.
Dravid seemed set for a big score until he pushed at one angling across him from Bollinger and was caught behind by Tim Paine. He had batted for almost half the day, nudging singles and punching boundaries in his watchful way, before the unexpected error ended his fourth-wicket stand of 79 with Tendulkar.
The previous series against Sri Lanka was a poor one for Dravid - he got 95 runs in five matches - and this was his first Test half-century since January. However, he joined Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar and Raina in falling before reaching three figures, and keeping Australia in the game.