Tendulkar gives India solid start
Sachin Tendulkar became the first man to 40 Test centuries as his 109 took India to a solid 311-5 against Australia on day one in Nagpur.
With the tourists needing to win the final Test to avoid a rare series defeat, they lost their third toss in a row, and India’s batsmen cashed in.
Tendulkar, dropped on 85 and 96, and VVS Laxman (64) put on 146 after Virender Sehwag’s rapid 66.
Australia’s debutant off-spinner Jason Krejza coped well, taking 3-138.
The 25-year-old from Sydney, who moved from New South Wales to Tasmania after being starved of opportunities, found plenty of turn at times. And despite his poor economy rate, few of his overs contained bad deliveries.
Krejza’s introduction came at the expense of reliable seamer Stuart Clark, and he justified his Baggy Green by spinning the ball appreciably at times as he took his first two wickets before lunch.
He should have had a third wicket when Tendulkar was unforgivably missed by Mitchell Johnson at mid-off, but battled on to remove Laxman.
Tendulkar’s innings was the major feature of the day. The 35-year-old played as well as he ever has between lunch and tea, but a combination of fatigue – and nerves as he reached three figures – made him a less potent force in the final session.
With him out of the way, Australia know they have not yet been batted out of the match.
he terrific new Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha became the 99th venue to host a Test, but once again the attendance was poor.
The fans who stayed away missed a particularly fascinating morning session, in which Sehwag and his debutant parter Murali Vijay put on 98 for the first wicket inside 18 overs.
Vijay, only playing because of the one-match ban imposed on Gautam Gambhir, was hoping to make a big impression.
A spare batting place will be available for the series against England in December following Sourav Ganguly’s imminent retirement and Vijay – a 24-year-old right-hander from Chennai whose impressive form has also seen him named in the one-day squad – looked pretty handy.
A cover-drive off Brett Lee – which followed three early Sehwag boundaries – was an early highlight, and he also drove Krejza sweetly down the ground for four.
But he was eventually surprised by a short-pitched ball from Shane Watson, which he could only edge to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
With Vijay out for 33, it was Rahul Dravid’s turn to come to the crease. But it has been a tough 18 months for “The Wall” in Test cricket and he meekly tapped a Krejza off-break straight to short leg to complete a two-ball duck.
Sehwag played some wonderful shots in his 69-ball innings – driving his first two balls from Krejza for four and six – but always seemed to be living by the seat of his pants.
Not content to drop a gear in the run-up to lunch, he tried to cut a Krejza delivery that was too close to his body, and spinning in. The ball crashed into the stumps off a bottom edge and Australia went into lunch on a positive note, with the scoreboard reading 122-3.
Laxman, in his 100th Test, and Tendulkar, both men holding outstanding long-term statistics against Australia, were in no mood to allow the tourists back into the match.
Boundaries off Laxman’s bat were rare as, in his 100th Test match, he favoured a minimum-risk policy of hitting ones and twos where available.
Tendulkar played Krejza with plenty of positive intent, however, and moved to 47 with a fine pushed drive past mid-on for four off Lee.
At tea, India had motored along smoothly to 202-3 with Tendular 62 and Laxman 34.
Tendulkar’s century moved into view as he played one of the shots of the day, a drive through the covers off Watson played at the top of the ball’s bounce.
That took him to 71 and he had added only three more when Krejza missed a fantastic chance to run him out, rushing his throw from the covers after a badly misjudged call from Tendulkar.
Fifteen runs short of his ton, Tendulkar hoisted Krejza to mid-off, but his attempted lofted drive went wrong. Johnson was in position to accept the chance but the ball burst through his fingers and onto the turf.
Laxman was the next man out, however, when – like Sehwag – he tried to cut a Krejza ball that was turning too much. His edge was trapped between Haddin’s thighs, and Ganguly emerged for what could be his final Test innings.
Tendulkar still felt the need to play one big shot to reach his landmark and another chance off Krejza spiralled high over mid-off. This time, Lee was the fielder but it was a much tougher chance as he had to turn and run towards the boundary before trying to sight the ball.
The spilt catch gave Tendulkar a third life, and he finally did reach three figures with a cut shot off Krejza, his 12th boundary of the innings.
Ganguly (27 not out) was the main aggressor in the closing stages of the day, as Tendulkar began to focus on ensuring he would still be there on Friday.
But the tactic did not work, as the exhausted-looking 35-year-old wandered in front of a straight ball – the 188th he had faced – and was out lbw to Johnson.
Australia’s lamentable over-rate – they managed just 87 overs in the day despite taking the extra half hour and using 41 overs of spin – was a disappointing aspect.
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