Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar enthralled with a majestic 74 in his farewell knock as India put themselves on course for a clean-sweep by taking a mammoth 313-run first innings lead in the second and final cricket Test against the West Indies at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium on Friday.
Millions of Tendulkar's adoring fans waited for a last magical knock from his blade as the 40-year-old batting legend walked into the ground to resume his innings at an overnight 38. He seemed to be in a positive frame of mind as he played an array of breathtaking shots much to the delight of a packed Wankhede stadium.
But the dream three-figure mark eluded the champion batsman in his farewell match but the Indians rode on Rohit Sharma's (111 unbeaten) second consecutive century and Chteshwar Pujara's 113 to pile up an imposing 495 for a 313-run lead.
Spinner Shane Shillingford was the pick of te West Indies bowlers, picking up 5/179 after toiling for 43 overs. Narsingh Deonarine chipped in with two wickets.
At stumps, West Indies were struggling at 43 for three in their second innings, still trailing by 270 runs with seven wickets in hand.
With three full days left in the game, the visitors have to bat out of their skin to save the match. But it was Tendulkar who hogged the limelight for the second day running with a sublime knock which included some of his trademark shots, which got rousing cheers from the crowd and a host of VVIPs including Congress vice-President Rahul Gandhi, state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Bollywood superstars Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan.
Silence descended at the Wankhede when Tendulkar was dfimissed when he thick-edged a Deonarine delivery to Darren Sammy at first slip. The crowd quickly recomposed itself to give Tendulkar a standing ovation as he trudged off the ground one last time.
The magnitude of the occassion, in fact, ended up overshadowing the hundreds by Pujara and Rohit.
Rohit added 80 runs with number 11 Mohammed Shami (11) to not only get to his hundred but give India a substantial lead.
Starting the day on 38, Tendulkar looked fluent during his 68-minute stay at the wicket on the day. He faced 118 balls in all hitting 12 boundaries, all of which were pure class. He added 148 runs for the second wicket with Pujara, who hit a patient 113 en route his fifth Test century.
Pujara hit 12 fours in his 167 ball knock. Rohit hit a classy unbeaten knock of 111 which came off 127 deliveries laced with 11 fours and three sixes.
Playing his first Test at home, Rohit gave a lesson on how to bat with a tail-ender as he completed his second successive Test century having got a reprieve on 85 as he offered a catch in the deep but Shane Shillingford overstepped.
Mohammed Shami joined Rohit when he was on 46 and the two put on 80 runs for the final wicket with Rohit shielding Shami by taking bulk of strike. A six over long on off Marlon Samuels brought up a well-deserved century and with that an exalted celebration.
On Friday, all roads led to the Wankhede Stadium in anticipation of a century but on 74, it was offie Narsingh Deonarine, who got one to bounce that bit extra as Tendulkar tried a cut shot which ended in rival captain Darren Sammy's hands in the first slip.
Deonarine's name will certainly feature in the record books for years to come as it is unlikely that West Indies will be able to get India bat second time on a pitch that has shown considerable wear and tear.
However, the time he was at the crease was pure unbridled joy for all those who witnessed a 'Vintage Tendulkar' on display.
With Pujara playing an ideal second fiddle by rotating the strike, Tendulkar played some delightful strokes that were taken out of the top drawer. His late cut off Shane Shillingford, a backfoot punch through the covers off Tino Best and the drive past Best that brought up his half-century were pure class.
It was Tendulkar's 68th Test half-century that came in 91 deliveries.
Best, who first tried to unsettle Tendulkar with bouncers and then with verbal volleys surrendered in the end as he had hands on his knees at the end of one of his overs. It was Tendulkar who gave him a friendly pat on the shoulders probably to remind "who's the boss today".
The hallmark of Tendulkar's innings was his assured footwork, leaving a lot of fuller deliveries outside the off-stump and getting the body behind the ball while executing those drives.
Probably, being pressure-free helped him to go for his shots as each and every stroke attack or defence were lustily cheered by a vociferous crowd.
Credit should also be given to Pujara, who kept his composure as the atmosphere was very overwhelming and emotionally over-riding too. He nudged around and when he got loose deliveries, he didn't forget to punish them. He played some free flowing drives and never really looked like any sort of trouble. He completed his century with a single off Deonarine as wife Puja applauded from the VIP stands.
The Pujara-Virat Kohli (57) duo added 94 runs in less than 22 overs to maintain a run-rate of above 4.5.
Kohli played effortlessly as he reached his 50 in only 53 balls. However, the talented Delhi batsman got a bit bogged down as he could score only seven off his next 24 deliveries before edging one Shillingford ball to Sammy in the slips.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (4) was dismissed cheaply as Best finally struck with the second new ball, getting the Indian captain to edge one to the slip fielder.
Rohit hit some elegant strokes but once Ashwin (30) was out after their 44-run stand off only 45 balls, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pragyan Ojha returned in quick succession, he was running out of partners. But Shami's determined effort helped him complete the century.
For West Indies, there wasn't much to write home about save Shillingford's five-wicket haul and Darren Sammy's five catches.