Tendulkar's 49th century grinds Australia down
India 435 for 5 (Tendulkar 191*, Vijay 139) trail Australia 478 by 43 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Only a man blessed with immense powers of endurance could sustain a 20-year Test career and Sachin Tendulkar displayed exactly that quality on a day of Indian dominance in Bangalore. Tendulkar batted through the day, along the way recording his 49th Test century and helping to steer M Vijay to his first, as India all but demolished Australia's first-innings advantage.
Tendulkar finished the day unbeaten on 191 and MS Dhoni was on 11, and with India requiring only a draw to win the series, there was no need for Dhoni to consider a declaration. How Ricky Ponting would love to have called a close to India's innings himself, after a day on which his attack looked toothless and failed to make a breakthrough until 3.21pm.
When they did, they quickly made it two. Vijay's edge behind off Mitchell Johnson was followed four balls later by the departure of the unlucky debutant Cheteshwar Pujara, who was padded up for more than six hours only to be greeted with skidder from Johnson, who trapped the new man lbw for 4.
Suresh Raina made 32 before he drove Michael Clarke to mid-off late in the afternoon, but by then India were within sight of Australia's first-innings 478. They had Tendulkar and Vijay to thank; their third-wicket partnership began on Sunday afternoon, stretched until after tea on Monday and was worth 308 runs. Both players batted wonderfully well, barely giving Australia the sniff of a wicket.
Tendulkar moved to 99 with a slog-swept six off Nathan Hauritz and repeated the stroke to move into triple figures while offering the spectators at long-on a catch. Nobody has scored more Test hundreds than Tendulkar, who celebrated his seventh in the past year with his usual bat-raise and glance to the heavens, but without any major display of emotion.
Vijay witnessed the ease with which his senior partner raced through the nineties but found it not so simple himself, and was stuck on 99 for more than 20 minutes. The Australians tried to dry up his options with short balls and when he eventually pushed a quick single to cover, he leapt for joy and was embraced by Tendulkar, who had started his Test career when Vijay was five years old.
In those two decades, Tendulkar has had only one year - 2002 - better than his vintage efforts of 2010, which earned him the ICC Cricketer of the Year award last week. He continued that form by handling all of Australia's bowlers with supreme comfort, racing to triple figures before lunch after he had started the day on 44.
Tendulkar pulled Johnson for consecutive fours, sliced Shane Watson over cover with ease and respectfully kept out the most consistent of Australia's bowlers, Ben Hilfenhaus. But the harshest punishment was saved for Hauritz. Even Shane Warne failed to mesmerise Tendulkar and in comparison, he found Hauritz easier to read than a cheap paperback.
As well as the two sixes, Tendulkar worked Hauritz effortlessly through the gaps, using his feet with the confidence of a man who knew exactly what was coming. The morning began with Hauritz conceding two boundaries down leg side to Tendulkar and that set the tone for much of the day.
By comparison, Vijay was generally not as forceful but was no less important for India. He scored slower than his partner but showed sublime placement on both sides of the wicket and occasionally went over the top against Hauritz. There were echoes of VVS Laxman in Vijay's clips and drives through the gaps, and that is enough to worry any Australian side.
Unlike Tendulkar, Vijay did have a couple of nervous moments, including an lbw appeal from Hilfenhaus just after lunch that could easily have been given out. Before the break, Vijay had nearly run himself out in his eagerness to move from 49 to 50 when he pushed to cover, took off and was turned back, and was only saved by a wayward ping from the fielder Hauritz.
Had Hauritz simply lobbed the ball to Tim Paine, Vijay would have been out by many metres. Peter George also gave up four overthrows with a high hurl from mid-off that would only have been appropriate had Paine also been 203 centimetres tall. Those efforts epitomised Australia's sloppy and wearying day.
The only man who didn't seem tired at stumps was Tendulkar. That's the benefit of 20 years of practice.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo