The Little Master batted like he hadn’t in a long time. (File Photo)
Mumbai: A Sachin Tendulkar century, in the eyes of his fans, surpasses almost every other experience the world has to offer. The effect is rather more pronounced when it’s scored before his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium. And when the manner of its achievement is as exquisite and chanceless as it was on Friday, it’s time to start thanking one’s stars for being in the vicinity of the maestro while he’s at work in the middle.
Tendulkar’s unconquered 140 against Rest of India failed to give Mumbai the all-important first innings lead in the Irani Cup, but it showcased the best of his batting, skills upon which repeated, recent failures had cast a miasma of doubt. Was he too old? Had the inevitable drag of time arrested his apparently ceaseless flight into an even grander greatness? Agreed the bowling on display – although consisting of four players with Test experience – was not of the highest quality. That took little away from Tendulkar, who batted like he hadn’t in a long time, claiming ownership of two more records on the way.
He joined Sunil Gavaskar on 81 first class centuries – the most by an Indian – and crossed 25,000 first class runs. It was a knock of special radiance, studded with all that he has come to be known for: off-side punches; the cheeky paddle sweep; the adventurous upper cut; a couple of dead-straight drives; the freedom that marked the first half of his long career.
Alongside this exhilarating performance, Rest of India went diligently about their business: removing batsmen from the other end and dismissing the hosts for 409 as Tendulkar remained intractable. The visitors lost a careless Shikhar Dhawan in the five overs they had to contend with before close, at which point they stood 144 ahead, nine wickets in hand, two more days to go. Mumbai’s tardiness allowed for just 79 overs to be bowled on Friday, despite play being extended by thirty minutes.
Mumbai resumed on 155/2 in the morning and nightwatchman Shardul Thakur edged Ishwar Pandey to gully on the first ball he faced. Tendulkar walked in and drove Pandey - second ball - crisply through cover for four. S. Sreesanth, hovering in the vicinity of 130 kmph, seamed into Tendulkar’s pads, beating him, peppering him with short balls, eliciting an expected response from the local hero: a backfoot drive on the up, all the way through cover and to the fence.
My focus is always on cricket: Sreesanth
Mumbai raced in the first session, adding 155 for the loss of Thakur, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma for a duck. Rahane was unlucky. He had been untroubled all his innings, slog-sweeping Pragyan Ojha for six to enter the 80s, before an umpiring error ended his stay. Rahane tried sweeping Harbhajan Singh from outside off stump, inside-edged on to his pads and was adjudged leg-before for a well-made 83, having added 73 with his senior partner.
Tendulkar was severe on Ojha. He lofted him inside out for a six and followed it with a four on the leg side. Another six, this time a slog-sweep against the turbaned off-spinner, brought him his fifty. Harbhajan picked up his second scalp – Rohit for a 12-ball blob – when the batsman botched a sweep into Ojha’s hands at deep mid wicket.
Abhishek Nayar (1) edged Abhimanyu Mithun to slip immediately after lunch allowing another southpaw, Ankeet Chavan, to spend time with Tendulkar. The two added 103 for the seventh wicket – Chavan drawing on the imposing presence of his ally to help himself to 49.
The holder of several world records then came into his own. He paddle-swept Harbhajan, laced Ojha through cover, before successive fours off the latter took him into the nineties. Tendulkar survived a third-umpire mediated stumping call on the next delivery and yet another screaming off-drive against Sreesanth saw him on 99.
Beginning of the end
The entire gathering – now numbering at least a couple of thousand - rose collectively as Tendulkar reached his 81st first class century with a single and crossed 25,000 runs with a masterly off-drive to a Sreesanth half-volley. The landmark netted, Tendulkar cut loose with a rash of hits, his disdain equally distributed across Rest's bowling spectrum.
The end began with Chavan’s dismissal - caught behind off Mithun – and the remaining were swept away in a hurry, Mumbai conceding a deficit of 117. This still left time for Rest of India to face five overs, in the first of which opener Shikhar Dhawan’s pull was plucked out of nowhere by a diving Nayar at shord mid-wicket. Rest ended on 27/1, 144 runs ahead, and with the comforting thought that, come what may, they already have first innings lead – an almost unbeatable deal in Indian domestic cricket.
Day 3: IRANI CUP 2013 — SCOREBOARD
Rest of India: 526 (1st Innings)
Mumbai: 409 (1st Innings)
Wasim Jaffer c Ambati Rayudu b S Sreesanth 80 (126)
Aditya Tare c Manoj Tiwary b Ishwar Pandey 6 (9)
Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Harbhajan Singh 83 (183)
Shardul Thakur c Manoj Tiwary b Ishwar Pandey 4 (16)
Sachin Tendulkar not out 140 (197)
Rohit Sharma c Pragyan Ojha b H Singh 0 (12)
Abhishek Nayar c Murali Vijay b Abhimanyu Mithun 1 (12)
Ankeet Chavan c Wriddhiman Saha b Abhimanyu Mithun 49 (89)
Dhawal Kulkarni c Murali Vijay b Pragyan Ojha 10 (38)
Javed Khan c Abhimanyu Mithun b Harbhajan Singh 8 (15)
Vishal Vishwas Dabholkar lbw b Pragyan Ojha 0 (1)
Extras (lb-7, w-2, nb-13, b-6) 28
Bowling: S Sreesanth 31-3-80-1, Ishwar Pandey 24-6-77-2, Abhimanyu Mithun 21-1-73-2, Pragyan Ojha 26.1-1-103-2, Harbhajan Singh 21-4-64-3, Manoj Tiwary 1-1-0-0.
Rest of India 27/1 in 5 Overs (2nd Innings), lead by 144 runs
Murali Vijay batting 18 (16)
Shikhar Dhawan c Abhishek Nayar b Dhawal Kulkarni 0 (6)
S Sreesanth batting 7 (10)
Extras (lb-0, w-0, nb-2, b-0) 2
Bowling: Dhawal Kulkarni 3-1-10-1, Abhishek Nayar 2-0-17-0.
FULL COVERAGE: 2013 IRANI CUP
Report/Scores: Mumbai fight back after Raina's hundred
Sidelights: Selection muddle, Wasted chance and more
Sidelights: Harbhajan's losing streak, and waiting for Sachin
I wanted to score heavily: Raina
Will the doors open for Wasim Jaffer?
Report/Scores: Vijay hits hundred
Sidelights: Trainspotting, Sehwag's Delhi belly and Vijay's luck
Vijay happy to be back in runs
Eyes on stars and struggles