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The Report by Siddhartha Talya in Mumbai
February 8, 2013
Rest of India 526 and 27 for 1 lead Mumbai 409 (Tendulkar 140*, Rahane 83, Jaffer 80, Harbhajan 3-64) by 144 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Before India's last major Test series, against England, Sachin Tendulkar had tuned up with a century against Railways in the opening Ranji Trophy fixture. Three months later, two weeks before another important Test series, Tendulkar eased towards another hundred, in front of a crowd several times larger than the ones that had graced the Irani Cup on the first two days. Though he grabbed the limelight, equalling Sunil Gavaskar's Indian record for most first-class centuries, and rescuing Mumbai after a middle-order wobble, Rest of India chipped away at a strong batting line-up to secure a potentially decisive first-innings lead. At stumps, Rest of India led by 144, but had lost opener Shikhar Dhawan in the second innings.
The Rest of India bowlers bowled slightly better than Mumbai had done - but were just as ill-disciplined, if not more, when it came to bowling no-balls that contributed to a poor over-rate - and were helped by a slice of fortune and some sloppy batting.
Two Indian Test hopefuls had reason to be upset today: Ajinkya Rahane, who looked good to get a three-figure score, was given out lbw after he inside-edged an attempted sweep off Harbhajan Singh; and Rohit Sharma threw his wicket away for a duck, top-edging a slog to be caught while trying to break free from a spell of 11 dot balls. Captain Abhishek Nayar fell cheaply, and at 257 for 6, Mumbai having lost 3 for 23, the burden of erasing a huge deficit fell squarely on Tendulkar.
Nightwatchman Shardul Thakur had fallen off the first ball he faced this morning, and his dismissal was greeted with a cheer on his home ground as Tendulkar walked in to replace him. Tendulkar looked comfortable against seamer Ishwar Pandey, but faced a testing first spell from Sreesanth, who ruffled him up with some bouncers, beating him as he tried to play the upper-cut, and even getting one to nip back in to rap him high on the pads. It was a little surprising that his spell stopped at six overs, immediately after he had prompted an error from Tendulkar.
Tendulkar warmed up with a couple of neat off-drives, one off his second delivery from Pandey, and waited to open up until Pragyan Ojha was brought on. He clubbed Ojha for a flat six over long-off, then threaded him through mid-on and midwicket next ball. Tendulkar retained his flow after losing Rahane, with whom he added 73, slog-sweeping Harbhajan over deep midwicket, but Mumbai were wobbling before lunch, by when Harbhajan, on a comeback trail himself, had accounted for Rohit.
Nayar nicked Abhimanyu Mithun to slip in the first over after lunch, but Tendulkar found a solid partner in Ankeet Chavan, who supported him in a century stand. As Chavan batted confidently at one end, dispatching freebies, defending solidly and even scoring off good deliveries, Tendulkar continued to take the Rest of India spinners to task.
Tendulkar was cheeky, scooping Harbhajan, paddle-sweeping Ojha, and then making room to carve the ball over extra cover. Sreesanth bothered him momentarily in a new spell, catching him on his shoulder, but Tendulkar drove him imperiously next ball to reach 99 and completed his 81st first-class ton with a single to square leg. This, on his way to going past 25,000 runs in the first-class format, still behind Gavaskar, who leads the tally for Indians.
Chavan had struck two fours in an over against Mithun, but pushed loosely at a delivery that nipped away, after having left several such deliveries alone during his 49, to be caught behind. Tendulkar kept going, driving superbly on the up against Mithun and Pandey, but was let down by the tail. He showed faith in Dhawal Kulkarni and Javed Khan, taking singles off the first ball of the over, hoping they would be able to negotiate the rest, but both ran out of patience, enticed by flighted deliveries from the spinners with the field brought in, and succumbed. Last man Vishal Dabholkar was lbw first ball, as Tendulkar watched on, stranded at the other end, having achieved a series of milestones but enduring the disappointment of conceding what could be a match-deciding first-innings lead.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Talya
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