Sachin equals Sunny

Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar, on Friday, tuned up brilliantly for the upcoming Test series against Australia by hitting a record equalling 81st first-class century.

Sachin looked in fantastic touch as he hit a sparkling unbeaten knock of 140 off 197 balls, equalling Sunil Gavaskar's Indian record for most first-class hundreds.

In the process, the 39-year-old also completed 25,000 runs in first-class cricket, including 15,645 runs in 194 Tests. He needed 104 runs in his 479th innings in first-class cricket for reaching the landmark.

However, Sachin couldn't prevent Mumbai from conceding first-innings lead of 117 runs to Rest of India on the third day of the Irani Cup match, here, at the Wankhede Stadium. He ran out of partners as the hosts were all out for 409. In the second essay, Rest were 27 for one at stumps, the overall lead being 144.

Nightwatchman Sreesanth, batting on seven, is giving company to Murali Vijay, who is undefeated on 18. Opener Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed for a duck.

The day belonged to Sachin, who sent out a strong message to the Australian team about his intent. He struck 18 boundaries and two sixes during his five hour and 43 minutes of stay at the crease. He played shots all around the wicket and none of the Rest bowlers barring Sreesanth, who dug a few short ones, seemed to trouble him.

Having arrived at the crease in the second over of the day, Sachin added 73 runs with the talented Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane missed out on a deserving century as he was trapped leg before by Harbhajan Singh. Replays suggested that the ball hit the bat but umpire Subrat Das upheld the appeal.

The off-spinner was the most successful bowler for the Rest, grabbing three for 64 from 21 overs as he also dismissed Rohit Sharma for a duck. Left-arm spinner Pargyan Ojha was, however, unimpressive as he went over 100 runs for his two wickets.

Sachin batted right till the end of the Mumbai innings, playing a string of exquisite drives to reach the landmark 100 in 139 balls. It was also Sachin's second ton in the Irani Cup game. He scored the first one in 1989 against the Rest.

Sachin's most productive partnership was with Ankeet Chavan (49) that yielded 103 runs for the seventh wicket.

Starting with a splendid front-foot extra cover drive off Pandey to the second ball he faced, Sachin looked absolutely in command.

Sachin and Rahane were cruising along merrily before Harbhajan broke their fourth wicket stand.

Rohit Sharma was soon dismissed while trying to attempt an ugly heave over mid-wicket. Captain Abhishek Nayar couldn't translate his Ranji Trophy form as he edged one from Abhimanyu Mithun to slip cordon.

Mumbai were in trouble at 251 for 6 when Chavan joined Sachin and steadied the ship.

The duo remained together till the tea interval when Mumbai were 350 for 6. Chavan left soon after when Mithun induced an edge to wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha.

Sachin continued to play his shots diligently even as the wickets fell at the other end to remain unconquered at the end.

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