England v India, 4th npower Test, The Oval, 5th day

The moment eludes Tendulkar again

Sachin Tendulkar's quest for his 100th century is a feat of Olympic proportions. He got excruciatingly close to the mark on Monday

Nagraj Gollapudi at The Oval

August 22, 2011

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Sachin Tendulkar walks off after being trapped lbw for 91, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 22, 2011
Out for 91. Stuck on 99. © Getty Images
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1425 hours. Monday. A moment Sachin Tendulkar may never forget. A moment of agony for his fans at The Oval and elsewhere. A moment when time stood still: Tim Bresnan reverse-swung the ball, drew an alert Tendulkar out of his crease, rapped him on the front pad, then appealed. A moment, probably the most important in the Indian second innings, that umpire Rod Tucker will never forget either. Forced to make up his mind quickly by a baying England team and a raucous crowd, he upheld the appeal.

Tendulkar was out for 91. Nine excruciating runs short of what we have come to know as the infamous hundred. He stretched his stay by more than a couple of moments. Tendulkar appeared unruffled after missing the milestone, and more worried if Tucker had got it right, considering he had come so far out of his crease.

The decision was right: replays showed the ball was clipping the top of leg stump. Tendulkar walked back slightly numb. He had played his best innings in eight outings on the tour. Yet, as he was escorted by security guards, as he climbed the 46 steps to the dressing room, listening to a second standing ovation in under 24 hours, Tendulkar will have been disappointed that he could not do enough to help India salvage a draw.

Nothing went right for Tendulkar this series, nothing he tried worked. He began hitting throw-downs nearly two weeks before the series had started. He continued hitting them before and during the Tests at Lord's, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and then The Oval. Before this innings, his highest score was the 56 at Trent Bridge. All through, Tendulkar wanted to make an impact. He took hits on the body, on the helmet, tried playing with soft hands, switched to hard hands. He kept failing.

Today was the first day in the series where the voices of Indian fans were louder than those of the home fans. It was the first day India's supporters outnumbered England's. When the bell rang five minutes before the start of play, The Oval was two-thirds full. By mid-afternoon virtually all the seats were occupied. Some of the people streaming in had skipped office meetings, citing lunch as an excuse.

The party atmosphere of the weekend was back. The England fans were happy to support Tendulkar's century as long as India lost 4-0. The Indians wanted to celebrate Tendulkar's century and a draw. The Oval was alive with banter, emotion. As Tendulkar neared his century, only 15 away, Matt Prior failed to hold onto a tight nick off Swann. The replay showed up on the big screen and a few voices, no doubt Indian, were heard over the collective gasp of the crowd. "Don't catch," they cried out, "don't catch."

The crowd was desperate from the first ball Tendulkar faced. Every run - single, double, four - was cheered. They were trying to push him from the outside, towards the never achieved and possibly unattainable landmark of hundred international centuries.

Tendulkar survived a handful of chances - on 34, 70, 79 and twice on 85 - and millions gasped each time, but when Tendulkar pulled Kevin Pietersen to move nine short of the century, The Oval chanted his name. Five minutes - an over later -Tendulkar was out and there was a release of emotion: elation from England's fans, disbelief in the Indian contingent; in the media box, the journalists were aggrieved and there was disbelief at the decision more than the fact that Tendulkar missed his century.

Tendulkar's quest for his 100th century is a feat of Olympic proportions. Usain Bolt takes nine seconds to achieve the unthinkable. For Tendulkar, the pursuit is over days, weeks, years, decades. It tests mental application, skills and discipline as much as physical endurance.

A senior Indian cricketer once pin-pointed what differentiated Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid from the rest. "They will murder you when they are on top of the game and score big hundreds with ease. But it is when they are down and things are not going well, even then they can last for three hours. The rest just wilt without a spine." That is the difference.

An hour after play ended today, as the spectators were being asked to leave, one of the stewards remarked: "India will be back. India will be back big-time. No doubt." Tendulkar's fans will be back too. Waiting for their moment.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (August 25, 2011, 15:08 GMT)

This is about my 3rd comment on this topic, the others were not published maybe because of the rules of engagement. Even if SRT had made that century in the 3rd test the outcome would have been the same. However to say the truth about what really happen to SRT in England would mean breaking the rules of engagement. All I can say is that the incident was unfortunate, and it was a sad day for cricket as we know it. Hope this one is published. SRT will make that 100th century somewhere else. Hope u get my drift.

Posted by sentkrish on (August 24, 2011, 13:51 GMT)

People are jealous on Sachin.. how come one think all his 99 centuries plus 160+ fifties are played for himself ?? he never counts any of his record its only fans and media..

We indian or sachin fans treat him as the gr8 son of INDIA and we love to see him making more and more records..

Posted by   on (August 24, 2011, 12:17 GMT)

Let people say whatever they want to, after all it is independent & democratic country. But the fact is, just think CRICKET without the one SRT, unthinkable really! Long live Sachin….may you pile on and on and on........

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 22:57 GMT)

So Sachin does not have many centuries which have resulted in victories. How does that make him selfish? Dravid scored 3 centuries this series and India lost every time. Does that make Dravid Selfish?

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 22:57 GMT)

So Sachin does not have many centuries which have resulted in victories. How does that make him selfish? Dravid scored 3 centuries this series and India lost every time. Does that make Dravid Selfish?

Posted by devalyagnik2003 on (August 23, 2011, 21:00 GMT)

@suraj arukil: what do you mean by no point of holding place like this?!! he played very few odis since last couple of year, they already gave chances to new players in odis a big time... he even missed WI tour and tell me which YOUNG players will take his place?? do we have any who can actually replace him?? in ODIs he already started giving chances to youngsters, don't forget last year he played very few one dayers... and in Test we don't have any replacement for Sachin, Rahul, Laxman... look at WI tour.. how Kohli performs, here in England how Raina and Yuvraj performed... don't just start talking about this 3 everytime they fails because India was HOLDING to that top position in test only because of this 3 players and even for next couple of years if they are not playing India will be below top 4-5 teams.. anyways for this ODI series we don't have sehwag so no point talking about Sachin should no play!

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 19:22 GMT)

A lot of people say SRT plays for himself whereas Dravid plays for his team. I actually would turn that on its head and say that Dravid handles pressure much better! it brings the best out of him just like it did for our old friend Inzamam Ul Haq. SRT on the other hand doesnt do that well when the chips are really down. It's a mental flaw. It doesnt mean he plays for himself. SRT plays for his team and is as committed to the cause but when they are 100 for 5 SRT wilts under the pressure. Dravid on the other hand is mentally tougher.He may not be as flamboyant or have the array of strokes of a VVS or an SRT but he more then compensates with his determination and mental concentration which he has time and time again prooved over the last 15 or 16 years. Lara is another one that was mentally tough and did well when the chips were down. If India are to rebuild they need to bring in Rohit Sharma, Pandey and Pujara and i think give Murali vijay another go (he did well in australia in tests)

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 19:20 GMT)

Brian Lara---- The world'd No 1 selfish batsman. Ricky Ponting----The most arrogant and funny. Averaging 19-20 in India. Jack Kallis--- Neve performed in the World Cup for his country. Some jealous supporters of those three are talking too much now a days.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 19:00 GMT)

Brian Lara---- The world'd No 1 selfish batsman. Ricky Ponting----The most arrogant and funny. Averaging 19-20 in India. Jack Kallis--- Neve performed in the World Cup for his country. Some jealous supporters of those three are talking too much now a days.

Posted by   on (August 23, 2011, 17:54 GMT)

Not many people understand the effect of having Tendulkar in the team. He is a crowd puller and will continue to do so. I watch cricket to see Tendulkar and follow him. This is epitomised by millions in India and the world. In the current series there was only Dravid and Tendulkar to some extent who did something. What did the others do? Dhoni, Raina , Gambhir these are the young guns who underperformed badly... go after them to reform. Look at England. you think Peterson or Bell or Cook will last 21 years .. Everybody underperforms..Ponting underperformed but stil has a place just becasue of his presence. that is echoed with Tendulkar.leave him alone...

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