Sachin Tendulkar’s quest for a record 100th international ton continued, but India rode on his fluent 76 to script an admirable come-from-behind five-wicket victory over the West Indies with more than four sessions to spare in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Chasing 276 for victory, VVS Laxman (58 not out) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) were at the crease when India successfully completed the chase to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, on the fourth day of the match.
Off-spinner R Ashwin, who took match haul of nine for 128, including six in the second innings, also played a big role in India’s triumph as he became only the third player to win the man-of-the-match award on debut.
Starting from his overnight score of 33, Tendulkar looked set to achieve the incredible feat of scoring his 100th international century till Devendra Bishoo spoilt his plan with a well-disguised googly, leaving over 10,000 spectators at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium stunned.
The champion batsman faced 148 deliveries and spent 201 minutes, 93 of them today, during his stay at the crease. His knock was studded with 10 sweetly-timed hits to the fence.
Resuming at 152 for two and needing another 124 runs to win with eight wickets in hand, India lost Rahul Dravid (31) early on the fourth day.
But Tendulkar along with Laxman guided the hosts to 233 with a 71-run partnership before disaster struck some time before the lunch break.
India were just 43 runs away from achieving a hard-fought come-from-behind victory and take a 1-0 lead, when Tendulkar made his way back to the dressing room, much to the disappointment of the crowd.
But Laxman stood firm to guide the Indians with yet another half-century in the fourth innings of a match. He struck six boundaries and faced 105 balls.
This was the second best chase on Indian soil, equalling the one by the West Indies, incidentally at this very ground in 1987, when Vivian Richards stroked his way to a century to guide his team to victory.
The highest remains the 387 for four India scored against England in Chennai in 2008-09.
Tendulkar, who had completed 15,000 runs in this form of the game yesterday, kick-started the day on a positive note as he tucked Darren Sammy to the fine-leg boundary in the first over.
Fidel Edwards, who had dismissed the iconic batsman in the first innings, was not spared this time as Tendulkar drove, cut and flicked the bowler with elan.
Edwards gave the West Indies a glimmer of hope when he breached through the defence of Rahul Dravid with the one that jagged in a long way on landing, but Tendulkar was in his elements from the word go.
Slight width from Sammy outside off stump, and Tendulkar was quick to slash the West Indian skipper behind point, giving the third-man fielder no chance of cutting it down.
VVS Laxman, meanwhile, was dealing in boundaries against Fidel Edwards, not sparing anything that strayed down the leg.
Laxman was in such a mood that at one point of time it looked he would come in the way of Tendulkar reaching the three-figure mark.
But, as fate would have it, Bishoo didn’t let that happen, foxing the Mumbaikar with a googly. But before that, Tendulkar looked in aggressive mood, giving special treatment to the likes of Ravi Rampaul and Darren Sammy.