Tendulkar's exquisite straight drive
Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid used to field at first slip. Hands that picked some of the best catches. A bowler would trust them completely and likewise, these guys built his confidence. However R Ashwin, who fields at the same position, has never given that same kind of assurance. Today he had already seen a difficult chance, an outside edge from Kieran Powell fall a yard in front of him. But a few overs later when Powell was beaten by the superb seam movement of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashwin spilled a straightforward catch. The ball was going to his left. Ashwin moved quickly but tried to pouch the ball, probably, with hard hands because the ball bounced off his left palm, trickled across his arm before bouncing off his lap onto the ground even as he tried to hold on to it in vain. Ashwin looked to the heavens for assistance. The bowler, too, did the same.
The ball was pitched on a good length. It was slightly fuller. Sachin Tendulkar's eyes lit up. He opened his stance, quickly moved forward and using his left elbow to lend direction, he punched that exquisite straight drive -past Darren Sammy, past mid-on for another four. It was a shot that comes to mind when you think Tendulkar the batsman. It is shot the roaring Wankhede took home.
The word of caution
Narsingh Deonarine was playing his first ball of the series. He tapped Bhuvneshwar towards mid-on and set off for a single without even realising Pragyan Ojha was standing well inside the circle. If that was not enough, Deonarine, who replaced Veerasammy Permaul, should have at least realised his partner was the as-safe-as-they-come Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The Guyanese, playing his 150th Test match, did not even blink as he turned his back to Deonarine, who had to retreat swiftly. An annoyed Chanderpaul indicated his displeasure by drawing a question mark with his hands.
The ploy of making the batsmen play as many balls as possible is a rule good fast bowlers never forget. Bhuvneshwar deployed that strategy successfully against all batsmen including Chanderpaul, who was defeated by the bowler's accuracy and persistence. In his third over of his first spell after lunch, Bhuvneshwar bowled four balls to Chanderpaul of similar nature: pitching back of a length, on leg or middle stump and moving away. Chanderpaul left a couple of deliveries alone, but the other two he was tempted to play, only to get squared up. In his next over, Bhuvneshwar improvised by pitching on the leg stump and creating an angle that forced Chanderpaul to play at the ball. The thick edge went to Ashwin, who did well to hold a good catch.
Deonarine seemed in a hurry as he tried to play most of the balls. Trying to defend a delivery from Ashwin which had pitched on the middle stump and was turning away, Deonarine stretched forward, but could not get to the pitch of the ball. The outside edge flew to the left of M Vijay, at short gully, who dived to pluck a spectacular low catch.