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Sachinvincible

cricket Updated: Jan 25, 2008 10:06 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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This was one feather missing in his cap, like the Test century at Lord's. Given that he already had 38 of them before his final appearance in Australia, not scoring one at Don Bradman's home ground might not have gone down as a huge disappointment, but Sachin Tendulkar made sure on Thursday that when he looks back, there will be no regret on this count. It may appear trivial because where he gets his centuries matters little as long as he keeps getting them and that's what he has been doing from the time when his youngest teammate on this tour, Ishant Sharma, was just a year old. It's merely for the ones with a nose for history and occasion that Tendulkar's 39th century will remain special — his first at the venue almost synonymous with the legend of legends who had once famously said that he “saw shades of himself” in the Indian.

In the context of the match, India must win to share the series, this is a narrow way of evaluating things. Because from the team's point of view, how much it has on the board for how many comes way ahead of who is batting on what. It was one of those days when the team's interest coincided with Tendulkar's never-ending quest for runs and India couldn't have crossed 300 without him and his very, very important partnership with V.V.S. Laxman. A lot remains to be done still because the position India were in after Day One can at best described as one between respectable and moderate.

Wobbly top order

It was as perfect a start as India could have got considering they chose to bat on a pitch where batting fourth may be difficult and also keeping in mind the fact that Brett Lee hardly tested the batsmen with the new ball. That India still failed to get a partnership going until being four down for not many had a lot to do with their own frailties outside off and some probing fast bowling by Mitchell Johnson initially and then Lee.

With an eye on what might happen later in the match, India gambled by including Harbhajan Singh as the fifth bowler. The merits or demerits of this move will become clearer afterwards but in the immediate scheme of things, it meant Irfan Pathan facing the new ball. He was gone soon, Rahul Dravid too fell before lunch and when Australia got two more in the second session including Virender Sehwag who made a vital contribution, they were a wicket away from getting closer to the tail. Lee was hurling the ball at an alarming pace, and India's desperate prayers for a partnership were answered by Tendulkar and Laxman.

Another one for Tondulkar

“It's truly special to get a hundred at Sir Don's ground. I knew Adelaide hadn't been great for me and was determined to get a big one. It's fantastic to get it, it's made this trip to Australia very, very special,” said Tendulkar, after playing an innings where he was not at his fluent best, but displayed enough of his mastery over everything Australia had to offer. He took 18 balls to get off the mark, got going with two sublime straight drives and hardly drove the ball as the innings progressed.

After being troubled by Lee a few times in his second spell, Tendulkar was all caution against him and the unfortunate one was Brad Hogg, whose left-arm unorthodox stuff was conquered in contrasting manner. He was swept from outside off to the finest of fine-legs repeatedly in his first spell and after the bowler changed ends, Tendulkar raced away to his century with some carefree hits down the ground. There were few fireworks after that and it seemed that the batsman was conserving himself for another day.

Those who kept him company were lucky to escape some easy chances behind the stumps and that India still lost Laxman with M.S. Dhoni, looking shaky, among the recognised batsmen left, their position was short of what can be called comfortable.

Only one partnership of above 50 is inadequate for a team looking to put up a big score and just how many they add on Day 2 will determine whether 309 for five was one wicket too many.