Tendulkar leads India to historic win
Sachin Tendulkar scripted a famous victory for India at Chennai with a masterly century, the 41st of his glittering career.
Set 387 on the fourth evening to beat England in the rescheduled first Test, Tendulkar brought up his hundred and scored the winning runs with a paddle sweep off Graeme Swann.
It represents the highest successful run-chase in a Test in India, and the fourth-highest in Test history.
In an unbroken, match-winning 163-run partnership for the fifth-wicket with the more aggressive Yuvraj Singh (85 not out), Tendulkar swept and drove his way to 103 not out, an innings of the highest class and composure on a wearing pitch exploited well by Swann.
And no matter the trviality of sport, the Little Master would have been desperate to deliver a victory for India in a Test that may not have gone ahead in light of the events in Mumbai.
Tendulkar came to the crease at 141 for two in the morning, and initially took an aggressive approach, at odds with the anchor role he has played in recent years.
He withstood a barrage from an imperious Andrew Flintoff, before bringing up his 52nd Test fifty, from 107 balls.
But when VVS Laxman departed, the only wicket to fall between lunch and tea, Tendulkar's approach became more circumspect.
This was especially so against the off-spin of Swann, who was engineering considerable bounce and turn out of a wearing fifth-day pitch at the MA Chidambaram stadium.
Swann, in his debut Test, showed real spirit in persevering for 28.3 overs, taking 2-103.
Tendulkar swept, then cover-drove Monty Panesar to go to 96, before almost playing on with a mistimed glance.
His sweep for four prompted generous handshakes from his team-mates and opponents.
India began the day at 131 for one, still 256 adrift of victory. In the first over, Gautam Gambhir hooked Flintoff for four and went to fifty soon after.
But Gambhir lost Rahul Dravid (four), whose poor run in Test cricket shows little sign of altering, prodding at Flintoff and offering a straightforward edge for Matt Prior.
Tendulkar played and missed at some fierce Flintoff deliveries, before cutting through gully and sweeping Swann for four.
After wafting at Flintoff, Gambhir played a tentative dab at James Anderson and was taken by Paul Collingwood in the gully for 66.
Laxman survived an appeal for a catch down the leg-side, before playing a gorgeous back-foot cut off Anderson.
India’s number five played two more wonderful drives off good balls from Flintoff, the first dissecting mid-off, the second mid-on.
But as he did in the first innings, Laxman (26) perished after a fluent start, turning Swann straight into the hands of Ian Bell at short-leg in the fourth over after lunch.
His class and poise cannot be questioned, and his record against Australia is almost untouchable, but Laxman is still yet to score a Test century against England.
Yuvraj came in under pressure, with England back in the ascendancy and the Punjabi yet to truly impose himself in Test cricket. He was squared up in the 60th over by Swann, who just missed the off stump with a ripper of a delivery.
But from Swann’s next ball, Yuvraj played a divine back-foot drive. He continued to launch the attack, slog-sweeping Swann and coming down the track to Panesar.
Steve Harmison gave the left-hander real problems with a succession of short balls, but Yuvraj broke the shackles with the first boundary in 10 overs, sweeping Panesar.
With 102 needed, Yuvraj survived a strong dual appeal for lbw and bat-pad off the bowling of Swann.
England took the second new ball for the 83rd over, but it had little effect. Yuvraj continued unperturbed, lofting Swann over midwicket.
Tendulkar survived when a Swann delivery went through the gate and somehow evaded off-stump, going for four byes.
But a couple of rare blemishes apart, this must rank as one of Tendulkar’s finest and most important innings.
A last thought should be spared for Andrew Strauss. The England opener battled his way to 123 and 108 in each innings, but with India’s victory, he became the eighth man to score two hundreds in a Test and finish on the losing side.