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Big guns go blazing

india Updated: Nov 25, 2011 08:38 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Hindustan Times
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It's not really a perfect setting - a dead rubber, a weak opposition, an inexperienced bowling attack and a dream batting wicket.

Ideally, Sachin Tendulkar's 100th hundred should have come against a fierce fast bowling unit, on a bouncy track, on Boxing Day in front of one lakh Australians at the massive Melbourne Cricket Ground.

But Mumbaikars are not complaining, with their favourite son just 33 steps away from a milestone that is unlikely to be emulated.

This India versus West Indies match was always about one man, and on Thursday, Tendulkar ensured it stayed that way by managing to remain unbeaten.

The Indian batting was under pressure after West Indies put up 590 runs on the board. But, for once not many were bothered about how many were needed to save the follow-on. It was all about how many more for the 100th ton. The scorers were left redundant as each of the 67 runs he scored on Thursday was counted enthusiastically by everyone present.

The hosts' top-order added to the mood by ensuring there would be no alarms. At the draw of stumps, India were 281 for three, needing another 110 runs to avoid the follow-on.

The ease with which Virender Sehwag (37), Gautam Gambhir (55), Rahul Dravid (82) and VVS Laxman (batting 32) went about the chase only increased the focus on their No 4.

Tendulkar himself looked solid. Walking into bat to a thundering reception, he calmed the nerves with a confident start.

He strode to his half-century, even upper-cutting Fidel Edwards for a six over third man. The pick of his shot, however, was an on-drive off Devendra Bishoo, when he danced down the track and caressed it along the ground to move from 29 to 33.

As one grows old, apart from slowing reflexes, the big challenge is overcoming mental fatigue. The concentration level drops and Tendulkar's real test was batting post-50. He has struggled in this phase recently, and faltered again when on 58, but he was fortunate. Wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh kept a billion dreams alive when he grassed Tendulkar's faint edge off Bishoo, and the Wankhede stadium heaved a collective sigh of relief.

Pure Joy
In terms of pure batting joy, Dravid was a sight to behold. He used his bat like a magic wand. But Dravid paid the price for flirting with danger as he tried to cut against the spin to be bowled by Marlon Samuels. A century would have been icing on the cake.

Everything is nicely set for Tendulkar. On Friday, all roads will lead to the Wankhede.