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Tendulkar ton fires India to huge total
Prem Panicker | January 31, 2007 12:57 IST
For the second game running, Brian Lara allowed India first strike in good batting conditions; this time, the home team didn't pause to examine the gift horse's dentures.
Batting with calculation and bursts of flair, India made 341/3 � and were more than halfway towards a series winning 3-1 lead.
On a green-tinged pitch at the IPCL Sports Complex Ground, Vadodara, India went in to the final game of the series with a lineup that is very, very close to what you expect the team to field in the World Cup.
Sourav Ganguly came back to team up with Robin Uthappa; Dinesh Karthik made way for Irfan Pathan, to provide an additional bowling option and India, with Zaheer, Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble as frontline bowlers, finally put a full complement of five bowlers in the field without weakening its batting depth.
The West Indies lineup was experimental. Dwayne Bravo's injury ruled him out; Shivnaraine Chanderpaul came back into the side, and the team rested Jerome Taylor and dropped Runako Morton with Ian Bradshaw and Dwayne Smith coming in.
Brian Lara won the toss and again, opted to field first. "There is something in the pitch for the fast bowlers," he said, referring to the green tinge on the deck and the early morning conditions.
He forgot to say who those fast bowlers were: thus far, the Windies pace attack has looked distinctly underwhelming.
The Indian innings
The cynosure was always going to be Robin Uthappa � and though his effort here was an all too brief cameo, he did enough to suggest that he will soon appear in ads for products that have speed, power et cetera as their USPs.
The second ball of the innings, from Daren Powell, was stroked to the long on boundary with ridiculous ease. Dwayne Smith nearly made himself unpopular with the sell-out crowd when he rapped the batsman on the pads in the second over to cue a ferocious, concerted appeal, but replays indicated that the fullish ball on middle was drifting to leg on the angle.
Uthappa shrugged that off and, in Smith's next over, deliberately opened the bat face to run it over slips to the third man fence - a short that was Sehwag-ish in concept, but far more sane and controlled in execution.
The 7th over of the innings, from Powell, was the stuff of high drama. The first ball was a wayward bouncer that went over the keeper for four byes. A ball later, to one lifting outside off, Uthappa did it again - the deliberate upper cut, hit up from under, placed wide of the deep fielder and hit with enough power to clear the rope.
The ball immediately following was one of those deliveries you expected any batsman to play into the off cordon -- full, straight, through the channel. Uthappa took a lazy stride out, picked it up with a full swing of the bat and deposited it over the long on boundary for a second successive six.
Next ball, he was gone: the ball was close to the stumps; it bounced and seamed late, and Uthappa's defensive push merely found the outer edge through to Chris Gayle at first slip (28/17; 47/1 India).
Impressive though the shot making was, what really stood out for me was a moment from the fourth over. The ball was full, on off and middle and Uthappa came forward in defense. The bowler was a tad lazy getting down to it � and immediately, the batsman called and raced the single before Smith could run back three paces and retrieve the ball.
Big hitters, especially in the Indian team, have shown a tendency to ignore the single as an offensive weapon. In both his innings this series, Uthappa has reversed that trend, actively looking for singles and responding vigorously when it was his partner's call.
His aggression at the top of the order allowed Sourav Ganguly the luxury of taking time to get his eye in. Early on, an attempt to pull found his top edge and sailed over the keeper's head. Ganguly reined himself in, watched a few more short ones to gauge the bounce before easing into the pull in the 8 th over and, this time, hitting it clean.
With that shot, and a couple of trademark forcing shots through point, to get his eye and timing set, Ganguly took off. In the 9th over, he danced down to smear Powell through cover, then stayed back to slam him through point. And the next time he pulled, he felt sure enough to deliberately get under the ball and ease it over the square leg fence for six.
Brian Lara brought on Marlon Samuels as early as the 16th over - and immediately, Ganguly moved to leg, made room and smacked the bowler to the long off fence, signaling an early attack on the part-timer. In Chennai, Samuels had returned 1/41 in his ten overs � ridiculously complementary returns on a batting beauty, courtesy Dravid and Tendulkar insisting they would only take singles.
Dravid had taken a good 13 deliveries to settle down, managing just three nudged runs in that time. Once over his early nerves, he too eased into fluid strokeplay, driving through the covers and on the on side with trademark pomp.
While both batsmen played spectacular shots, it was their running that really merited notice. Not too long ago, sneaking quick singles was the exclusive preserve of the younger ones -- the Kaifs, Yuvrajs, Rainas and such. In this series, though, it is the seniors who are noticeably manufacturing short singles and running them with impressive vigor: a fallout, perhaps, of the brief conditioning camp ahead of this series, where running between wickets was the skill set that was worked on the most.
It seemed almost inevitable, once Ganguly pulled that first pull shot off, that the southpaw would score big; there was thus an air of inevitability to his 62 nd ODI 50 in a score of 121/1 (58 balls, 7 fours, 1 six). As in Nagpur, he was looking good for much more when he went, in the 25th over, after having brought up the 100 of the partnership off 110 balls.
Chris Gayle, into his first over, spotted Ganguly's intended waltz down the track and smeared the ball flat and well wide of leg; the batsman was beaten and stranded, with Dinesh Ramdhin having an easy stumping to complete (68/82; India 148/2).
Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid pushed India to 168/2 at the end of 30 overs (67/1 in 10; 127/1 in 20) at 5.62, adding 20 runs in the five overs following Ganguly's exit. With Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Irfan Pathan to follow, the platform was in place and the innings was primed for a frenzied push � the only question was, when would it be launched?
Not immediately. Tendulkar and Dravid continued to nudge and ease Gayle and Bradshaw around the infield, Dravid's slog sweep to square leg and Tendulkar's thump down the ground off Bradshaw counting as aberrant behavior. Dravid brought up his 76 th ODI 50 (77 balls, 5 fours); the 50-partnership came up off 64 balls and India after 35 were 196/2.
The first signs of real aggression came in the 38th over: Tendulkar square cut Bradshaw, then short-armed him to long off, and flick-drove a third successive four in that direction. A moment of note came immediately after those three fours, when Tendulkar forced square. The fielder deep on the point fence reckoned there was just one, and under-armed his throw. Tendulkar was quick to spot it, and sneaked a second while the throw was en route � good cricketing intelligence on view there.
Smith was brought back for Bradshaw in the 50th, and Dravid joined the party, lofting him over the infield on the onside to take India to 234/2 at the end of 40 � the period between 35-40 bringing up 38 runs.
An interesting parallel with the first ODI: India, there, was 126/0 after 20 and 225/3 in 40 before the assault that rocketed it to 338. Here, India had made 127/1 in 20; 234/2 in 40.
In the 41st over, Tendulkar raced a single to reach his 76th ODI 50 (46 balls, 5 fours) -- a far more convincing knock than his essay in Chennai, with his front foot play especially on the up being the most impressive facet. Dravid celebrated, staying outside the line of a Powell delivery and smearing it over extra cover for four.
With the luxury of wickets in hand, the innings broke into a gallop. In the 42nd, Tendulkar flicked Smith fine, then smashed him square for successive boundaries. The progression from 200-250 was the fastest 50 of the innings, off just 34 balls -- better than the 50 off 44 Ganguly and Uthappa had knocked up at the start. In the 43 rd, it was Powell's turn to hold his head as Tendulkar walked across his stumps to take one from off stump and flick it to fine leg.
Lara gambled with Samuels in the 44th and the move paid with Dravid, who had anchored while Ganguly and Tendulkar did the heavy hitting, launching the slog sweep high and straight to Lendl Simmons on the long on fence (78/109; India 265/3; partnership 117 at 6.44).
43 runs were scored between 40-45. Smith timed his leap to a nicety to block a six at square leg, goalkeeper style, when Dhoni brought his wrists into play against Samuels, but the 46 th over still went for 9.
Dhoni's helicopter style whirl of the wrists finally clicked, in the 47th, with a shot that defies description. All you could really say was that at the end of it all, a perfectly good yorker length delivery from Emerit had sailed over the long off fence; the over produced 12. Dhoni started the 48 th by running down the track and depositing Samuels somewhere in the trees over midwicket; later in the over, Tendulkar cracked those trees with a more cultured slog-sweep; the over produced 16.
Dhoni's wrists -- there is something missing there, maybe bones � again produced magic, this time off Emerit who was lofted onto the roof of the pavilion to bring up the 55 of the partnership off 30 balls (36 off 17 for Dhoni). Tendulkar drove in the air, Lara at cover, seemingly stunned by the flow of runs, spilt a dolly and, worse, let it sneak through his fingers for four more, and India were 328/3, with one over to go.
No one seemed to want to bowl the final over. Bradshaw got wished the job, and did well enough in the circumstances. He should have got Tendulkar when the batsman danced down and flicked; the ball went through the fingers of Smith at deep backward square leg and through for four more. A sneaked second run off the penultimate ball took Tendulkar to 99; a single off the last ball of the over took him to his 41 st ODI century (76 balls, 10 fours, one six) -- and India closed on 341/3 in the allotted 50.
Dhoni's 40 not out off 20 deliveries went almost unnoticed as the crowd stood for Tendulkar; the 100 was his first since September 2006, when he scored 141 not out against the same opposition, this time on Caribbean soil.
This is the 14th innings since then; the 100, when it came, was greeted with evident relief by Tendulkar and considerable elation by an Indian dressing room that has been keeping the faith with the batsman through an unduly prolonged drought.
The West Indies ground fielding remained the most impressive part of their cricket. With a bowling lineup that has never looked capable of running through a side (India's aberration in Chennai owed to its own air-headed batting), it has needed its out cricket to be at its sharpest to minimize damage, and the likes of Marlon Samuels and Lendl Simmons led a sharp, committed effort in the field.
Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels were, yet again, the most impressive of the bowlers. Gayle kept the ball wicket to wicket, spearing it down on length from his great height and never permitting the batsmen free room for strokes. Samuels achieved the same results by constantly varying lengths, lines and speeds, keeping the batsmen uncertain.
Among the pacers, Riyad Emrit alone stood out. Amidst the general carnage, he managed an impressive first spell of 6-0-29-0; coming back in the 45 th over to confront Tendulkar and Dhoni, he kept up a stream of block-hole deliveries to cramp the two free-stroking players and ensure they didn't overwhelm the scorers.
India ended up with enough to seal the series, especially given its wealth of bowling resources and the fact that the pitch, having baked hard all morning, should take more turn in the second session.
West Indies in India 2007: The Complete Coverage
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