There's a statue of Don Bradman at the Cathedral End of the Adelaide Oval, where he appears to be dancing down the track and lofting the ball straight over the bowler's head. The bat is above his left ear, his knees are bent and the eyes are looking upwards, watching the ball soar into the horizon of his home ground. It was fitting that Sachin Tendulkar chose the venue to bring up an immaculately-crafted hundred, the kind which is said to have put Bradman so far ahead of the rest.
If anyone missed Tendulkar's innings in the first three Tests they should have simply landed up here. He was attacking in Melbourne, authoritative in Sydney, and innovative in Perth but this was the combination of them all. It had the moments of adrenaline-fuelled strokeplay, a hint of chance, a dash of inventiveness and tons of intelligence. Bringing out his percentage game against a high-quality bowling attack, he stood alone.
It wasn't an innings with any distinct shade, rather one that covered the entire spectrum. Walking in to a standing ovation, he didn't score off the first 18 balls. Soon after he had eased into first gear, he set the stage with a flurry of fours. The first was a simple, yet glorious straight drive off Brett Lee; the fourth was hammered past Mitchell Johnson, the bowler. The skies were clear but it would have been fitting if a rainbow hung over the arena.
Bradman rated his 254 at Lord's as his finest innings, simply because each stroke went exactly where he intended. It was interesting to hear Tendulkar talk about the first couple of straight drives here, saying how the ball travelled precisely where he wanted it to go. "These are phases which come and go," he said, "and you know when you're hitting the ball well. You need to wait for that moment."
It wasn't a flawless innings. He was in trouble against Brad Hogg, padding up without offering a stroke, and had his nervy moments while facing Lee and Johnson. A few moments before tea, with Johnson bowling the 53rd over, he was bounced twice before being beaten on the move. The next ball, pitched on the same length like the previous one, was left alone. The final ball, straighter and swinging away, was edged short of first slip.
Through the innings, he showed the ease with which he could adjust. By paddle-sweeping Hogg, he altered his line towards the off stump. Soon he tapped it away to the off. Against Lee, while facing a brilliant late-afternoon spell, Tendulkar subtly changed his stance after each miss, shifting an inch or so either way. Good balls were followed by a little nod, as if to suggest that he was enjoying the battle.
It was an innings where the good balls were put away, amply illustrated when Hogg said his "best ball of the day" had been struck for six. Stuart Clark saw a good away-goer race past gully, simply because Tendulkar had known exactly when to open to the face of the bat.
What he also did was to bring out a shot that he's rarely played in recent Tests: the charge against the spinners to launch them back into the stands. It used to be one of his signature strokes and often came with an air of dominance, dismissing the good balls with quicksilver footwork. Twice he stepped out and smashed the spinners over their heads, revealing yet again how he could change his game depending on the situation. He signed off with a cheeky ramp over the slips, making full use of Lee's pace and bounce, and rounded off an innings which had almost everything.