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November 6, 2008
Sachin Tendulkar has said India were in a decent, but not brilliant, position after ending the first day of the final Test in Nagpur on 311 for 5. Tendulkar, who stabilised the Indian innings with his 40th Test hundred, felt losing five wickets was too many and "three would have been okay".
The situation when he began his innings was reminiscent of India's first innings in Mohali where a terrific start had been eroded by quick wickets. Today India went from 98 for 0 to 116 for 3 and were in danger of allowing Australia to bounce back after Virender Sehwag's half-century forced them on the defensive.
"It was important that I got going because we had lost a couple of wickets and even Sehwag got out after that," Tendulkar said. "I think it was just about keeping the head cool initially because when I walked in it was a critical stage. We had to make sure that we [VVS Laxman and I] had a good partnership and took the game away from Australia because the momentum was with them [Australia] initially."
Tendulkar and Laxman's efforts succeeded and they regained the advantage by adding 146 for the fourth wicket. Tendulkar went after the debutant offspinner Jason Krejza, slogging him over midwicket and lifting over mid-on. He fed off the deliveries that Mitchell Johnson bowled on his pads, flicking with impeccable timing towards the square-leg boundary. The shot of the day, however, was a trademark on-drive against Lee which bisected the gap between the bowler and mid-on.
Tendulkar, however, was fortunate to get a century. On 74 he survived a run-out chance; on 85 he mis-hit Krejza to mid-off where Johnson dropped the catch; on 96 he lofted Krejza once again to long-off where Brett Lee couldn't hang on. Tendulkar played out 11 dot balls on 99 before reaching his hundred by cutting Krejza to the point boundary.
"I can say he [Krejza] was a bit unlucky," Tendulkar said. "He had a first wonderful day. Today I can also thank God [for reaching the hundred] . I am delighted at getting the century."
The 40th century eluded Tendulkar twice in this series. He was out for 88 in Mohali and 68 in Delhi and on both occasions he was batting with fluency before falling against the run of play. Tendulkar, however, said although he missed out on hundreds, he had made vital contributions, such as the patient 49 in Bangalore which helped India save the Test.
"I know I am batting well, but I was not getting to the three-figure landmark. But I don't think that is everything. I have gone in at crucial [stages] at almost four or five times and I have been able to play. That is very satisfying, when you deliver when the team needs the most."
Tendulkar was dismissed in the last half-hour of the day, playing across the line to Johnson, who was bowling with the second new ball. That lapse, and the catches that were offered before his century, seemed to indicate a drop in concentration, but Tendulkar did not agree.
"I don't think I lost my concentration," he said. "Yes there was a patch in between but later on I felt I had sort of again changed the momentum and I just wanted to be there till the end today."
Tendulkar said that the pitch was a "perfect track" but what was noticeable, even in the first hour of play, was how quickly the bowlers' follow-throughs left their mark on the surface. Krejza got a few deliveries to spin and turn on day one and Tendulkar said it will definitely help the spinners more.
"The wicket is playing good. It is on the harder side and it is quite good. The spinners are getting bounce so I think in a day or two it will be difficult to play the spinners." When play ended on the first day, Harbhajan Singh made his way out to the middle, possibly to inspect the surface on which he hopes to fulfil the responsibility passed on to him by Anil Kumble.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.