Watchout, Sachin Tendulkar is back, the Australians might well have said had they watched the batting maestro in full flow at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday.
Tendulkar warmed up for the forthcoming Test series against Michael Clarke & Co in great style, slamming an unbeaten 140 in 197 balls thus equaling Sunil Gavaskar’s record of 81 first-class centuries. He also became the second Indian batsman to reach 25,000 runs in first-class cricket after Gavaskar (25,834 runs)
Though Tendulkar stole the show on Day Three of the Irani Cup tie against Rest of India, Mumbai still have a lot to do if they are to break their 16-year jinx and win the trophy here.
Mumbai were bowled out for 409 — 117 runs behind RoI’s first innings total of 526. RoI skipper Harbhajan claimed three for 64, while pacers Ishwar Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun and spinner Pragyan Ojha claimed two wickets each. Thereafter, RoI were 27 for one (144 runs ahead). Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed without scoring thanks to a brilliant diving catch from Mumbai skipper Abhishek Nayar. At stumps, Murali Vijay was batting on 18 while nightwatchman S Sreesanth was on seven.
It was Tendulkar’s third century for Mumbai this season and by far, the most convincing. It was one of those innings where he dominated the proceedings. Sreesanth seemed to be the only bowler, who looked to offer a challenge to Tendulkar. Their duel began from the very first ball when the Kerala pacer hurled a good bouncer at the legendary batsman. Two balls later, the batting maestro provided a fitting reply with his trademark back-foot punch for four.
Sreesanth (1-80) was quite impressive with his bouncers and short deliveries, hitting the deck hard and generating decent pace as well. The Mumbai crowd didn’t enjoy the way their iconic figure was being treated and Sreesanth, who had sledged Tendulkar during NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in 2006, was soon booed.
“There was a plan to keep Sachin paaji on the back foot, but even after playing a lot of balls off the back foot, he came on the front foot for the next ball. What can I say — paaji is paaji! He’s a legend,” said Sreesanth.
The maverick pacer bowled with gusto — determined to stop Tendulkar from scoring yet another century. When Tendulkar was on 95, Sreesanth again bowled a short one that hit Tendulkar on the shoulder. Then, when he was batting on 99, Sreesanth hurled another bouncer which Tendulkar ducked without a fuss. Sreesanth bowled the next one into his pads, and Tendulkar neatly worked it away for a single to reach the three figure mark.
“I managed to hold him on 99 for one over, and I shouldn’t be saying this, but I gave away a single to Ankeet (Chavan) at fine leg because I wanted to bowl to paaji. It was my birthday on Wednesday and I dreamt of getting him out, but couldn’t,” rued Sreesanth.
Tendulkar played some of his best shots against spinners Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha. He dominated Ojha in particular. It didn’t matter where the left-arm spinner bowled, Tendulkar got him away for runs each time. An inside-out shot over cover was masterclass. Meanwhile, Ankeet Chavan enjoyed Tendulkar’s company as the two added 103 runs for seventh wicket. But just as the duo were looking to take the game away from RoI, Chavan played a loose shot and fell one run short of what would have been a well-deserved half-century.