Wasim Jaffer's splendid century saw India score 352 for 3 at close on Day 1 of the second Test against Pakistan in Kolkata on Friday.
The right-hand opening batsman was unbeaten on a majestic 192 that included 32 boundaries in 255 deliveries, as India took full advantage of batting first on a flat batting wicket at the Eden Gardens.
India lost Dinesh Karthik early for 1, but Jaffer and Rahul Dravid (50) rallied the team around brilliantly with a 102-run partnership for the second wicket.
Dravid was unlucky to be given out caught behind off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria for 50.
Sachin Tendulkar eased his way to 82, inclusive of 12 boundaries, before becoming Kaneria's second victim. He added 175 runs for the third wicket with Mumbai team mate Jaffer to help India take control.
Pakistan were dealt a big blow as Shoaib Akhtar struggled with fitness and bowled only nine overs.
Shoaib Akhtar may have been down with fever and chest infection for the last few days, but he certainly showed no signs of it in the first over he bowled. Starting in the high 130s, he took no time to raise his speed to the 140-kmph mark in the first over of the match.
Left-arm Sohail Tanvir struck with his first delivery of the match when he got Danish Karthik caught in the slips for 1. Karthik was again guilty of playing away from his body, to a wide delivery early in his innings, and was dismissed in similar fashion for the third consecutive time in the series.
Shoaib bowled a tidy first spell of four overs, conceding just nine runs before giving way to Mohammad Sami. Tanvir though proved expensive in his first spell as he conceded 30 runs in his six overs before being replaced by leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.
Kaneria struggled in the first Test in Delhi to keep the Indian batsmen in check and here too he started off poorly. His third ball was a full toss, which Dravid promptly dispatched through the cover region for a boundary, as India reached 50 for 1 after 14 overs.
The pitch held no terrors and both Dravid and Jaffer made most of it. Jaffer hit a couple of delightful boundaries off the struggling Sami on either side of the wicket to race to 38. He took no time to bring up his half-century, when he straight drove Tanvir for another majestic boundary, in the 23rd over of the innings. His 10th fifty in Tests took just 64 deliveries, and included eight boundaries.
In fact, he hit four boundaries in that over from Tanvir to race to 60, as India reached an imposing 98 for 1 after 23 overs.
There was hardly anything in the pitch for the bowlers as India cruised to a healthy 104 for 1 in 27 overs at lunch.
Jaffer was unbeaten on a majestic 65, inclusive of 11 boundaries, off 81 deliveries. At the other end Dravid proved the perfect foil, having reached 35 not out, including five boundaries.
The duo put on 102 runs to help India take the early advantage after Karthik's dismissal in the second over of the match.
India will hope the duo carry on in similar vein in the post-lunch session and not let the initiative slip away. Jaffer, in particular, is known to throw his wicket away when looking good and one hopes he doesn't get too carried away.
With a flat pitch and the Pakistani bowlers not looking at their best, it can only get better for India.
Shoaib's struggle was evident in the post-lunch session when he bowled two ineffective overs. In the second over, he could hardly run and bowled from a very short run-up before heading to the dressing room. Would he take further part in the innings? Did Pakistan take a big risk by including him in the playing eleven?
Jaffer continued his merry ways after the break as no bowler could create an impression. With Shoaib absent from the pace attack, it was proving to be very easy for the two Indian batsmen.
Kaneria suffered at the hands of Jaffer when the Mumbai opener hit him for two consecutive boundaries in the 39th over of the innings to move to 80. In the same over, Dravid completed his 49th half-century in Tests when he flicked for a single to the fine-leg region. It took the former India captain 116 deliveries to reach the landmark, which included seven boundaries.
Dravid, however, fell to the next delivery he faced when he was given out caught behind to Kaneria for 50. Closer looks at television replays, as a disappointed Dravid walked back to the pavilion, suggested that the ball had missed the edge of the bat.
The second-wicket partnership between Dravid and Jaffer yielded 136 runs in 39 overs and gave the hosts a solid platform.
Sachin Tendulkar also did not take much time to get started. But it was Jaffer at the other end, who entertained the Eden Gardens crowd with his delightful strokes on either side of the wicket.
There were no nervous nineties for him as he creamed Tanvir yet again for two consecutive boundaries to move to 99. Another sweet-timed boundary through the covers off Kaneria in the 49th over saw Jaffer scale the century mark, his first against Pakistan.
Jaffer's fifth century in Tests took 150 deliveries and included 18 cracking boundaries. It was clear at this stage he could do nothing wrong. Quite clearly, it was one of the best hundreds seen in recent times and the way dominated the bowling brought back glimpses of VVS Laxman's 281 in 2001 at this venue against Australia.
The Mumbai opener smashed another two boundaries off Kaneria in the same over as India reached 183 for 2 after 49 overs.
Even though he completed his century, Jaffer didn't relent and continued to attack the hapless Pakistan pacers. In the 52nd over, he hit left-armer Tanvir for three consecutive boundaries to bring up India's 200 in some style.
In the final over before the tea break, Tendulkar crashed Kaneria through the covers to bring up his 1000 runs against Pakistan in Tests.
At tea, India reached a dominant 206 for 2 in 55 overs, having dominated yet another session with the bat.
Jaffer got better with every passing minute to finish unbeaten on 124, while Tendulkar was not out on 26.
The Mumbai pair put on 68 runs in 14.5 overs to pile further misery on the depleted Pakistan attack.
Jaffer's knock was simply outstanding as he hit 23 boundaries in his 163-ball knock. The bowlers were dispatched to all parts of the ground and no one had an answer to his outstanding batting. He was particularly severe on left-armer Tanvir, whom he carted for 13 boundaries, scoring 56 runs in 64 deliveries against him.
The stage is now perfectly set for the hosts to take full toll on the weak Pakistani bowling attack, badly missing a fully-fit Shoaib. The Pakistani speedster bowled only six overs in a total of 55 sent down by Pakistan.
In the first over after the tea break, Tendulkar (28) got a lucky break when wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped a straightforward catch. Tendulkar tried to cut Sami, but got an edge which Akmal made a mess of to add to Pakistan's woes.
The master batsman then made rubbed salt into Pakistan's wounds with two gorgeous boundaries off Shoaib in the very next over. Danish Kaneria also faced similar fate in the 61st over to bring up the 100-run partnership for the third wicket in just 20.5 overs.
India were 250 for 2 after 65 overs and it seemed Pakistan had given up hope as Sohail Tanvir came on to bowl as a left-arm spinner.
In the same over, Tendulkar completed a half-century with a single to the covers. It was his seventh against Pakistan, and scored off 74 deliveries, inclusive of eight boundaries.
In the following over, Jaffer crossed the 150-run mark off 207 deliveries, inclusive of 25 boundaries.
The innings very much resembled Laxman's epic knock of 281, as time and again Jaffer played the delightful flick off his pads and sweet extra-cover drives. There was no stopping the Mumbai opener as he hit two consecutive boundaries off Kaneria in the 72nd over.
Tendulkar repeated the dose in part-timer Yasir Hameed's next over with boundaries through the cover region and mid-wicket. The Indian dominance was now assuming gigantic proportions as Tendulkar scored another boundary through the off-side off Kaneria to bring up India's 300 in the 74th over.
But, against the run of play, Pakistan got the big wicket of Tendulkar for 82. Leg-spinner Kaneria deceived Tendulkar with a googly that crashed into his stumps as he attempted a shot through the off-side.
The veteran looked all set for a hundred but once again fell when very close to it. He hit 12 boundaries in his 109-ball knock, adding 175 runs for the third wicket with Jaffer as India were reduced to 313 for 3.
Sourav Ganguly walked out to a huge reception from home fans and also took no time to get settled. He started with a boundary off the second ball he faced as he guided Kaneria past the slip region.
With the lights fading fast, the umpires offered the batsmen light which they promptly accepted.
At close on the opening day, India reached a healthy 352 for 3 in 84.3 overs, losing a wicket each in all the three sessions.
Jaffer was unbeaten on a magnificent 191 that included 32 boundaries in 255 deliveries. No bowler was spared as the Mumbai batsman used his wide array of strokes to make maximum use of the flat track.
While the wristy flicks were pure delight for the fans, there were also some cracking boundaries through the off-side.
The Pakistan bowlers were also guilty of bowling too straight at him as Jaffer scored 121 runs on the leg side, with 19 boundaries. Tanvir suffered a lot, as Jaffer stroked him for 81 runs in 91 deliveries, hitting 17 boundaries.
For Pakistan, the biggest disappointment was Shoaib Akhtar, who let the team down as he sent down just nine overs through the day. He was already struggling with fitness problems coming into the match and the gamble to play him seems to have backfired.
Facing such an uphill task, Pakistan can only hope and pray, while the Indian batsmen will be itching to have another go on the second day.