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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
December 11, 2004
India 348 for 7 (Tendulkar 159*, Ganguly 71) lead Bangladesh 184 by 164 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It was another day at Dhaka when history, rather than competition, was the talk of the town. Sachin Tendulkar's glittering hundred, his 34th in Tests, put him alongside Sunil Gavaskar in the century stakes and put India in absolute control of the opening Test. Bangladesh created openings for themselves, especially in the first session, but they closed the door with some shambolic catching that let India off. And India went on to make them pay, as they piled on 348 for 7 by the end of the second day, with a lead of 164.
On his way to the summit Tendulkar stumbled twice, only for Bangladesh's fielders to prop him right back up. Habibul Bashar fluffed a regulation catch at first slip while Rajin Saleh juggled and then grassed one at silly mid-off. Sourav Ganguly and Dinesh Karthik were also given second lives as the butter-fingered brigade came out in force. Bangladesh had had the better of the first session, with Mashrafe Mortaza unsettling the Indian top order, but ragged fielding gradually eroded their morale.
Tendulkar's century wasn't flawless, and edgy moments interspersed gorgeous drives. When he was let off after being foxed by the bowlers, he made the fielders pay. While he was content to play the percentages in the early stages, with controlled square-drives to wide deliveries, he unfurled his range as the day progressed. After reaching the 30s, there were assured front-foot punches. A jaw-dropping back-foot straight-drive followed - done with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency - and he then raced past the 90s with a flurry of fours.
On reaching his hundred he joined an elite club of Gary Kirsten and Steve Waugh as the only men to have scored Test centuries against all countries. As stumps approached he improvised with sweeps and glances, including one where he walked across the stumps, met the ball at the very last moment with an angled bat that sent it to the fine-leg fence. By this point it was a walk in the park.
Tendulkar's innings was the main ingredient but the Indian innings also contained some delectable touches of spice. Sourav Ganguly skipped to 71 and manhandled slow bowlers along the way, while Gautam Gambhir displayed fine touch before his innings was cut short by a communication breakdown. VVS Laxman performed a most melodious rendition before his voice cracked and Dinesh Karthik had a joyful hitting session towards the end of the day. It was Ganguly's effort, though, that helped put India back on track after the Bangladesh new-ball bowlers had pegged his team back.
Tapash Baisya and Mortaza had bowled wonderfully in tandem and reduced India to 68 for 3. Mortaza zeroed in on a narrow channel outside the off stump and the subtle cut that he produced hurried the batsmen into indiscretion. He troubled Virender Sehwag with his zip and gave Rahul Dravid a torrid examination after Baisya trapped Sehwag lbw. Dravid's defence was clumsy, with the moving ball creating doubts. He fell to one such misjudgement, shouldering arms to one from Mortaza that nipped back in and uprooted off stump (24 for 2).
Both Tendulkar and Gambhir seized the moment when Mortaza was taken off the attack. Mushfiqur Rahman, the first-change bowler, bled 15 in his first two overs as the batsmen stepped up a gear. Then, suddenly, a fierce punch by Tendulkar was intercepted by Rajin Saleh at point but he stayed his ground leaving Gambhir, who had charged half-way down the pitch, stranded(68 for 3).
That fielding effort was a shimmer in the dark, though, as Ganguly and Tendulkar wrested back the initiative. Ganguly began cautiously and survived a few hiccups along the way but he mauled the left-arm spinners. Both Rafique and Manjural were put off their length as Ganguly skipped down the track and lofted them to the straight boundary. Ganguly showed all the qualities that had made him a tormentor of the best spin attacks in the past and he rendered the square fielders redundant as well. The stream of boundaries slowly turned into a torrent as Ganguly eased a few fours of the medium-pacers. But he fell right at the stroke of tea, undone by one that straightened, sneaked through the gate and crashed into his stumps (232 for 4).
The rest of the day was about Tendulkar and his gamboling friends as first Laxman and then Karthik thrilled in bursts. Unlike the rest, Tendulkar didn't throw it away and will return with his record-shredder tomorrow. It was fitting that he was joined by Anil Kumble right at the end of the day, as the two men who ruled the first two days of the series walked off amid the fading light.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.
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