Tendulkar finds his off-side groove
For all those who were doubting Sachin Tendulkar's run-making ability, he has hit back in glorious style during the 2008-09 season. In seven Tests this season, he averages 64.72, and his three centuries during this period have come within the span of seven innings. With 42 Test hundreds, he is now five clear of the second-placed Ricky Ponting. (Click here for the list of highest centurions.)
One of the features of his 160 on the third day in Hamilton was the manner in which he repeatedly peppered the off-side cordon : he scored 75 of his runs in the arc between backward point and extra cover, which is an excellent indication of his form. When he is unsure of his strokeplay, he often reins in those cover-drives, and instead prefers to gather his runs on the leg side. Here, though, 100 of his 160 runs, and 18 out of 26 fours, were scored through the off.
The way he changed gears was stunning too. When he first came in to bat, Tendulkar was circumspect: after 40 deliveries he had only scored 14, with a solitary four. His first 50 runs required 118 deliveries, but thereafter he turned it on in style, requiring only 50 more deliveries to get his hundred. Though his rate dropped after he reached his century, he still scored at around four runs per over.
Among the bowlers who bowled to Tendulkar, the only one who kept him in check was Daniel Vettori: in 66 balls, Tendulkar scored only 22 off him. Even after settling in and reaching his half-century, Tendulkar wasn't able to dominate Vettori: in 44 deliveries he faced from Vettori after getting his 50, Tendulkar scored 12. In 73 balls from Chris Martin and Iain O'Brien during this period, he scored 66.
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Thanks largely to Tendulkar's 160, India managed their first 500-plus score in New Zealand. It's also India's highest first-innings lead in New Zealand, and significantly higher than the 148-run advantage they had in Auckland in 1976.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo