Sunday 19th December 2010
Centurion (South Africa): In a year when adjectives like ‘biggest’ and ‘unprecedented’ were mostly used to describe scams, it was left to India’s sportspersons to provide cheer to the nation with their stirring feats. It is fitting, therefore, for 2010 to draw to a close with a stupendous achievement by a hero who has epitomized sporting perfection for over two decades and given millions of Indians countless moments of pride and joy.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar went where no cricketer ever had before — and no else may ever venture — when he scored his 50th Test ton on Sunday. It’s a staggering achievement that reopens the debate about whether he’s the greatest batsman ever, surpassing even the legendary Sir Don Bradman, who was famously reminded of himself while watching the Indian genius in action. It was a fitting moment in many ways. After three disappointing home Tests against New Zealand when the master failed to reach the three-figure mark, it came on a bigger stage — against South Africa in South Africa, as Team India battled to avoid an innings defeat in a match-up between the world’s two top Test teams.
It was a century that the entire nation was eagerly awaiting from Sachin Tendulkar and he ensured that Indians had a 'Super Sunday' as he completed a historic 50th Test century against South Africa at the Centurion.
The moment Sachin found a gap through the extra cover region to push a Dale Steyn delivery for a single, the entire stadium stood up to salute one of the true legends of the game.
It is Sachin's 175th Test match --- most by any player in the history of the game. It took him four Test matches to reach the milestone after having scored his 49th against Australia in October this year. (Click here to watch the video)
He played 197 deliveries and 258 minutes to reach the milestone. He hit 12 boundaries and a big six over long-off with left-arm spinner Paul Harris being the sufferer. This is his seventh century in the year 2010.
If some of the Indian players like Sreesanth were seen saluting Sachin on his achievement, South African players like skipper Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla congratulated the maestro.
M S Dhoni, the man who was at the other end when Sachin became the first batsman to hit 200 in an ODI, was again at the non-striker’s end on Sunday. In both cases, the landmark was achieved off a speed merchant who’s probably the most lethal in the business right now — Dale Steyn. They would have been special moments even if they’d come against lesser bowlers, but it was appropriate that they should come against another champion.
A gentle push to cover, a few quick steps towards the non-striker’s end and history was made at the SuperSport Park, at a venue aptly called Centurion. Almost from the day he made his debut some 21 years ago, Sachin had seemed destined to get 50 Test centuries. Still, when the moment arrived, it prompted goosebumps, tears and loud cheering across the world.
As Sachin took off his helmet and looked skywards before throwing his arms up in his now trademark gesture, the stadium stood up as one to clap. Suddenly, tricolours were proudly fluttering in different parts of the ground.
It was another great knock in a year that has seen Tendulkar harvest over 1,500 runs with seven centuries and an average in excess of 85 from 13 Tests.
For the man himself, the century was but a brief stop in a long journey as he strove to pull off a miracle for India — a most unlikely draw in the first Test against South Africa. Or, at least, some honour in defeat. While India are more or less finished, 30 runs behind with two wickets standing at 454/8 as a snap shower ended the day's play, Tendulkar was still not done. He is there, unconquered on 107 (226 balls, 13 fours, 1 six).
For a major part of the day, Tendulkar had to wage a lonely battle as a humiliating defeat loomed. India, shot out for 136 runs in the first innings, began the day at 190/2. When Tendulkar came to the middle after nightwatchman Ishant Sharma’s dismissal about 45 minutes into play, India still needed 270 to avoid a loss by an innings. The little master battled on even though Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina left without any substantial contribution.
Finally, skipper M S Dhoni stepped up and lent the support Sachin was looking for.With Dhoni looking assured at the other end,a relaxed Tendulkar worked his way towards the landmark. Anticipation at the stadium grew more intense with every run he scored. And it was an uneasy tea break when Tendulkar went in at 80.
But the maestro soothed nerves when play resumed with two crisp fours to move to 88. At 89, he launched Paul Harris into the stands. A couple of nudges here and there got him to 99. History was made off the next ball...