When Sachin Tendulkar came out to bat on Tuesday, the host broadcasters Channel 9 and a mobile phone operator ran the results of the viewer poll question - will Sachin Tendulkar get a century, his hundredth international ton, today?
The preliminary results showed 71% felt this won't be his day. When the second ball he faced, off a charged-up James Pattinson, found the inside edge, those people would've felt vindicated. In the next over, the last before tea, when Mike Hussey almost got the wicket of his life, those 71% would've probably headed off to the races to test their newly-acquired clairvoyance, and win a few punts.
As he came out to bat in the final session, even those 29% would've been edgy putting their money where their mouth was. A ball later, the game turned on its head. First innings leads didn't matter anymore, the fiery spells of hometown heroes Peter Siddle and Pattinson were put on the backburner, even Virender Sehwag's pyrotechnics were fading from the collective consciousness. The quest was back on.
The shot in question was incredible not just for its sheer visual and technical appeal but the moment had something to do with it as well. To emerge from the tea break and upper cut the first ball, not just over the slip cordon but to channel the pace so well that the ball sails over the fence, was a moment of pure genius. The shots that followed all had an imprint of genius.
He opened the face of the bat and the ball would race away to the boundary, he bent his knee and showed the full face of his bat, ditto. He flicked one that drifted down his pads, drove one past the bowler, same result.
He was batting at a brisk 73 of 97 deliveries with eight imperious boundaries, an innovative six, and a handful of deliveries to play out the day and resume in the morning. Alas, it was not to be as Siddle got one to reverse and crash through the gap between bat and pad.
Prior to the match, Australian skipper Michael Clarke had hoped Tendulkar would achieve his 100th international ton in "the next series". Going by this innings, it seems like wishful thinking.
For Siddle, Tendulkar's dismissal was the perfect end to a day of nearly there moments. In the morning, he struck around and almost got his half-century, eventually falling nine runs short. Zaheer Khan got rid of him and the other overnight batsman Brad Haddin with a spell of inspired swing bowling early in the day. R Ashwin then got rid of the last two batsmen, but not before they had guided the hosts to a respectable 333.
He then closed out the day with a scorching spell that saw him rattle Dravid's stumps, only for the umpire to refer it to the third umpire and deem it to be a front-foot no-ball.
Dravid made the most of his lucky reprieve and withstood a spell of raw pace to head to stumps at an unbeaten 68, with nightwatchman Ishant Sharma for company.