‘Little Master’ works his magic

2010-12-20 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s charge towards a win in the first Test against India was met by two contrasting wonders of nature yesterday as Sachin Tendulkar first rewrote the record books and Mother Nature redecorated the Highveld, leaving the Indians on 454 for eight when play was halted on the fourth day.

That left them still 30 short of making the Proteas pad up again, but it was a remarkable rearguard rally from a side that looked dead and buried at lunch on Saturday, with South Africa compiling a cavernous lead of 486.

It was unlikely that the Indians would fold as meekly as they did in the first innings, and Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag silenced the partisan Saturday crowd with some blistering batting in an opening stand of 137 in fewer than 30 overs.

To be fair, the pitch was at its benign best on the third day, as shown bythe scintillating century offered by AB de Villiers that morning, while Jacques Kallis sailed to the most serene of maiden Test double-hundreds.

But India’s assault was as potent as it was unplanned for.

The Proteas, vicious with the new ball in Thursday’s gloom, looked a little shell-shocked as Sehwag sliced his way to 63, while Gambhir made a feisty 80.

India resumed on 190 for two yesterday, with night-watchman Ishant Sharma in the company of Rahul “The Wall” Dravid. Sharma didn’t last long, but that only paved the way for Tendulkar to give Centurion fans a fitting farewell.

Dravid fell for 43, reaching the small matter of 12 000 Test runs in the process.

Tendulkar, meanwhile, took advantage of the attacking fields set by Graeme Smith, but young Suresh Raina again fell cheaply, this time caught at slip off Kallis.

“It was important that we sent out a message, and there are a lot of positives that we can take out of this innings,” the “Little Master” said.

He found a willing ally in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and the duo added 178 brutal runs as the home attack ran out of ideas.

Tendulkar, driving and pulling with his ageless grace, kept accumulating from one end, while Dhoni reached his half-century off just 40 balls.

No bowler was spared as the Indian pair raised the possibility of the Proteas batting again.

Paul Harris, left-arm slow bowler, admitted that he had to pinch himself at times to believe that he was sharing the stage with a living legend.

“It’s unbelievable, you know, and it is just a privilege to bowl to such a great player,” said Harris, who reached a milestone of his own when he had Sehwag caught in the deep on Saturday.

The second new ball did nothing to stop the carnage; indeed, Tendulkar sped up with its arrival.

His 50th Test ton was majestic, and he saluted the momentous occasion with a prolonged peek at the heavens.

Indeed, his batting at times was sent from above, and those who saw his latest masterpiece gave him a sustained ovation when he reached three figures.

The rain seemed to delay the inevitable, but Tendulkar — in his quiet, yet determined manner — said his only thoughts were positive with regard to saving the Test.

“You never know, all we can do is think positively and see what happens.”

Those who saw him carve his name even deeper into history will know that anything is possible when the world’s best is still about.

 

SCOREBOARD

India first innings136 (M.Morkel 5-20)

South Africa first innings 620-4 declared (G. Smith 62, A. Petersen 77, H. Amla 140, J. Kallis 201 not out, AB de Villiers 129)

India second innings

G. Gambhir lbw b Steyn80

V. Sehwag c Smith b Harris63

R. Dravid c Boucher b Morkel43

Ishant Sharma c Amla b Steyn23

S. Tendulkar not out107

V. Laxman c De Villiers b Tsotsobe8

S. Raina c Harris b Kallis5

M. Dhoni c Boucher b Steyn90

Harbhajan Singh c Kallis b Harris1

S. Sreesanth not out3

Extras (b-13, lb-5, w-8, nb-5)31

TOTAL (for eight wickets, 122.2 overs)454

Fow: 1-137 2-170 3-214 4-242 5-256 6-277 7-449 8-450.

To bat: J. Unadkat.

Bowling (to date): Steyn 27.2-5-103-3 (w-1), Morkel

28-5-91-1 (nb-2, w-3), Tsotsobe 24-3-98-1 (nb-1), Harris

30-5-88-2, Kallis 13-3-56-1 (nb-2). — Reuters.

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