Tendulkar back with a hundred
Lashings XI 342 for 5 (Tendulkar 155, Cairns 113) beat Cambridge University 238 for 9 (Owen 82, Austin 52, Drakes 3-29) by 104 runs
Sachin Tendulkar began his comeback from shoulder surgery at Fenners - Cambridge University's ground - by scoring a gorgeous 91-ball hundred for the Lashings World XI side in a match against the university. A crowd of nearly 1000 turned out on a glorious day in Cambridge, mainly to see Tendulkar who was cheered by vocal Indian fans on the boundary - and even from the rooftops of nearby flats.
That he made such an assured comeback was of little surprise, but it was nevertheless a rare treat to see one of the game's most elegant and successful batsman play with such carefree exuberance. Rarely was he in trouble; indeed, he toyed with the University bowling to such a degree as to cause gasps of amazement from the crowd. His classical hits down the ground, met with a checked drive, were Tendulkar at his best. It was though he had a new lease of life.
Of course, a charity match against students is of little significance and doesn't offer much indication as to a batsman's form. Regardless, though, the crowd loved every minute. Before play got underway at 2.30pm, Tendulkar and his Lashings team-mates were introduced to a select group of members in the corporate tent by Scott 'The Voice' Charlton, Lashings' resident PA. As the public address system boomed out of the white, 30-foot tent, the crowd soon converged upon it in a vain attempt to see some of the celebrated squad (in particular Tendulkar).
Surprisingly, security was very tight; a particularly vocal, enthusiastic pair of Indian fans, who made the journey from London, were very nearly ejected from the ground after refusing to move away from the tent "door" which was billowing in the wind, and luring Tendulkar's fans towards it. Tendulkar is the biggest name in India, never mind Indian cricket, so perhaps the stringent security measures were a necessary evil. But in Cambridge, for a charity match against students watched by a small and friendly public? It rather put a dampener on proceedings, not to mention upset two of Sachin's fans.
Tails between their legs, the two fans and the rest of the crowd filtered around the boundary edge, supping beer, pimms and ice-creams. Although he was listed on the scorecard to bat at No. 3, Tendulkar opened the innings with his captain, Richie Richardson, and after a cautious first three balls launched into his innings. Forty-two balls later he brought up a fabulous fifty, the like of which few batsmen can make. Driving effortlessly; picking up the fast bowlers for fours behind square; sweeping the medium-pacers down to fine-leg: just about every shot in his extensive armoury was unveiled. It was a thrill to watch.
Indeed he even unleashed a couple of powerful pull shots, indicating that perhaps his shoulder - which was operated on in March - has finally healed. His only alarm came on 80 when, attempting his first reverse-sweep, the ball spooned to short leg but the wicketkeeper was unable to cling on to a hard, diving chance. A push to mid-on for a single brought up his hundred, from 91 balls, and was met with a diffident raise of the bat - and rapturous applause from the crowd. He was finally out in the 30th over for 155 caught at short mid-on off the bowling of medium-pacer Ben Jacklin, and was surrounded by autograph hunters as he returned to the pavilion.
Before the start, Tendulkar had little to tell the media, only saying that his shoulder was "getting better". But he would not be drawn into commenting on his readiness for the triangular one-day series in Sri Lanka in August, where India will face their hosts and South Africa.
He is due to play five matches for Lashings, a charity fund-raising side that fields a number of former internationals. Tendulkar said he was looking forward to easing himself back into cricket in a "no pressure, relaxed environment".
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo