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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
November 15, 2013
Vintage Tendulkar in final Test
West Indies 182 and 43 for 3 trail India 495 (Pujara 113, Rohit 111*, Tendulkar 74, Shillingford 5-179) by 270 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India's next generation of batting talent flourished as West Indies were pummelled into submission but even the delectable strokeplay of Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli couldn't wipe out the anti-climactic feel of much of the second day's play.
During the first hour, however, Test cricket had rarely felt so alive. With Sachin Tendulkar playing what could be his final Test innings, his legion of fans were put through the emotional wringer. This whole series has been drenched in Tendulkar nostalgia, and every vintage shot he played today only highlighted what fans are going to miss in the days ahead. Every mis-step - like two attempted upper cuts off Tino Best - caused massive anxiety. Fans were uncertain whether they wanted Tendulkar to be on strike - so they could lap up a few more of his shots - or at the non-striker's end as the tension was close to unbearable when he batted.
The assuredness with which Tendulkar played had made it seem inevitable that there would be a fairytale century in his final Test. You'd think the year-long wait for the 100th hundred would have taught Indian fans to be wary about expecting fairytale Tendulkar centuries. Clearly they hadn't, and like at the Wankhede in 2011, a slip catch from Darren Sammy cut short Tendulkar's innings on 74 and stunned an expectant crowd into silence. The mute-button was on only for a few moments though, as the crowd regained its voice to appreciatively roar Tendulkar off the field. Tendulkar muttered a few words to himself, but as has been the case over virtually his entire career, he maintained his poise after being dismissed, acknowledging the adoring crowds as he trudged off.
His partner for the entire innings was Cheteshwar Pujara, who perhaps would have been more worried about making a wrong call to run Tendulkar out and risking the wrath of Wankhede than about the challenge posed by the ineffectual West Indies attack. Pujara's every single was cheered with the fervour that usually accompanies centuries, and he remained mostly under the radar. When he played the straight drive for four, you were reminded - unfairly for Pujara - about how much more pristine and non-violent the shot was when Tendulkar played it.
Still, it was a cracking innings, full of controlled aggression. He pounced on the width routinely provided, adroitly playing the cut past point, as he kept he run-rate brisk. His one moment of fortune - thanks to a frankly awful decision from the third umpire - was when he was adjudged not out on 76, though replays clearly showed Kieran Powell's fingers under the ball as he grasped a chance at short leg.
Pujara wasn't perturbed by all the emotion over Tendulkar's dismissal, and continued his march towards his fifth Test century, underlining his reputation as a man for the big score. Of the eight times he has reached fifty in Tests, he could have converted seven of them into hundreds, but two of those innings were unbeaten half-centuries in successful chases. He was scratchy against the tireless offspinner Shane Shillingford after reaching triple-figures today and a leading edge resulted in a caught-and-bowled chance that ended his stay on 113.
Kohli, the man tipped to take over Tendulkar's No. 4 spot, began with a series of boundaries to help Pujara maintain the momentum. Like in his one-day innings, where his high scoring-rate surprises given the lack of big shots, he zipped to his half-century at nearly a run a ball almost unnoticed. He was looking untroubled but he too perished to a Sammy slip catch, undone by a straighter one from Shillingford.
If the first half of Pujara's innings was overshadowed by one Mumbai batsman, his innings will recede further in fans' mind due to an astonishing century from another Mumbai batsman. Rohit began his long-awaited Test career with a game-changing 177 in Kolkata, but there seemed little chance of him making another century in Mumbai as he was only on 46 when the No. 11 Mohammed Shami walked in.
By then Shillingford had taken his fifth successive five-for, matching a feat last achieved by Alec Bedser in 1952-53, and Sammy had equalled the record for the most catches by a non-wicketkeeper, snapping up five. India had lost three wickets in two overs either side of tea, and West Indies looked likely to have to bat almost an entire session.
Instead, Rohit scripted a masterclass in batting with the tail to inflate the total by 80 runs, and joined an exclusive club with two hundreds in their first two innings. Shami is not the worst No. 11, but Rohit skilfully farmed the strike, so much so that in the first seven overs Shami only faced seven deliveries. Even when the partnership was close to 50, Shami was still on 0.
West Indies were desperate to get Rohit off the strike. In the 99th over, when Rohit gently tapped the final ball past the closely packed field for a single, West Indies' dispirited fielders weren't keen on chasing it down though it wasn't going to reach the rope. Briefly, Rohit contemplated whether he had time to take three.
In between protecting Shami, Rohit unleashed a blizzard of strokes which he commonly shows off in limited-overs matches. His one moment of panic was when he holed out to deep midwicket when on 85, only to be reprieved when the replays showed Shillingford had overstepped. Soon after, he reached his hundred with a six over long-on - it had taken him only 118 deliveries, and Shami had only made 1 in a 64-run stand.
The innings finally ended on when Shami whipped a catch to deep square leg, and the lead was a massive 313. West Indies had about an hour to bat out, but even in that short space lost three wickets to the spinners. Once again, R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha had the ball spinning and turning, and on the evidence so far, West Indies will do well to stretch this game as long as the end of the third day.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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