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15,000 & still counting!

cricket Updated: Jun 30, 2007 01:47 IST
Rohit Mahajan
Rohit Mahajan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Sachin Tendulkar smote one down to mid-off and dashed down the wicket, --- run-out on 99 in the previous game, the best judge of a single among the Indians was not going to fall short on 49. The man at mid-off panicked, missed the mark by a mile, no one was backing up and the ball crossed the boundary.

The Indian fans in the stands went wild, waving the tricolour, blaring their klaxons and beating their drums. Stormont would never have heard such a din before, certainly not over cricket. But it indeed was a moment to celebrate --- that fiver put Tendulkar's one-day tally at 15,004. It has taken Tendulkar 18 years and 387 ODI games to hit the figure of 15k; Tendulkar also hit his 160th six during this innings and his 1,600th four.

As India set about the chase, it became clear that the master was intent on aggression. He had copped criticism for the way he batted in the first match, especially the way he fell.

Then he was goaded into a fight by Makhaya Ntini --- the Proteas paceman was steaming in, hitting the seam and making the ball rise from short of length. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were beaten by bounce on more than one occasion, trying to drive the rising ball outside off.

Then Tendulkar landed his breathtaking counter. Ntini continued his mad dash at the batsmen, his body swinging, the amulet around his neck flying; but he erred in line --- on to the body and Tendulkar went after him. Freeing his arms, Tendulkar hit the fourth ball of the third over to the square boundary. Hostilities were open, a masterful display of taking the attack to the quicks started.

Charl Langeveldt was caught in the crossfire --- two fours were hit in the fourth over as the paceman erred in line. Ntini was despatched to the boundary twice in the seventh over --- both over square leg as Ntini went for Tendulkar, seemingly aiming for the crest on the master's helmet. It was not all one-sided --- Tendulkar hit many, missed a few, was beaten a couple of times. But his wicket was intact, the ball was disappearing over the rope with thrilling regularity and the South Africans were losing their cool.

Andre Nel --- given grief by a few 'spirited' men behind his back at the long-on boundary, suffered at Tendulkar's hands too: 12 came off the 18th over he bowled, including a six when Tendulkar pulled one from outside off over square-leg. Then came the fiver that put Tendulkar past 15,000. As the crowd went crazy, Tendulkar calmly looked about, as if wondering what all that fuss was about.

Thandi Tshabalala is a brave man, whatever you might say about his skills as a spinner; Tendulkar went after him in the 28th over, smashing a six over the long-on boundary --- right into a chair that was emptied in a panic by a photographer --- apart from a couple of fours.

Tshabalala, though, was clearly intent on buying a wicket, whatever the cost. In his next over, Tendulkar fell, playing on as he tried to steer the ball. Gone in the 90s for the second time in two innings. The crowd was silenced, this time it was Tshabalala who wildly celebrated. But the crowd was on its feet in a moment --- the spectacle was over, the master had yet again left a mark on the match.