The Master Blaster remained unbeaten on a defiant 140, helping his team avoid the ignominy of a follow on. It was Tendulkar’s 81st first class hundred, equalling the national record of Sunil Gavaskar [ Images ].
The 39-year-old, during the course of his innings, also completed 25,000 first class runs, in what was his 303rd match. His 197-ball knock was replete with 18 boundaries and two majestic sixes.
However, despite Tendulkar’s earnest efforts, RoI still managed to take a healthy 117 runs first innings lead, thanks largely due some irresponsible batting by the Mumbai middle order. At close of play on the third day, the visiting team had made 27 for one (after five overs) in their second innings, for an overall lead of 144.
Earlier, resuming at their overnight score of 155 for two, the hosts lost night-watchman Shardul Thakur (4) in the seventh ball of the day, Ishwar Pandey striking with his first ball, having him caught by Manoj Tiwary at gully.
That set the stage for the entry of Sachin Tendulkar, to a rapturous applause from those present. The Master Blaster and Rahane combined well for the fourth wicket taking the score past the 200-run mark.
Tendulkar, having survived a probing over from Sreesanth, in which the bowler bowled a short ball too many, opened up, first with a boundary off Mithun, followed by six (over long-off) and a four off Ojha. Rahane too hit the left-arm spinner for a six.
However, just when things seemed to have settled down for the hosts, Harbhajan provided the visitors with the breakthrough they required, getting Rahane out leg before.
Rahane’s 183-ball 83 was inclusive of nine boundaries and a six and he helped Tendulkar put on runs for the fourth wicket, and he was unfortunate to have been given out as he appeared to have hit the ball.
The Master Blaster, meanwhile, reached his half century by sweeping Harbhajan over midwicket for a six. Rohit Sharma [ Images ] (0) albeit was guilty of gifting his wicket away, hitting a Harbhajan delivery to Ojha at deep midwicket.
Mumbai went into lunch at 255 for five (after 73 overs). The second session began on a disastrous note for the home team, Mithun striking with his fourth ball, having Abhishek Nayar [ Images ] (1) caught by Murali Vijay at first slip.
Ankeet Chavan came out to join Tendulkar and soon got into the groove with a couple of sweetly-timed boundaries. The Master Blaster, meanwhile, continued to regale, being particularly severe on Ojha.
A single past the short leg fielder by Chavan, off Harbhajan, helped the home team get to the 300-run mark, in the 85th over. In the next over by Ojha, Tendulkar hit successive boundaries to raise the 50-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
In the same over, Tendulkar, on 91, survived a stumping appeal. The second new ball was taken after 88 overs, and Ishwar Pandey replaced Harbhajan (20-4-59-2) in the attack. Sreesanth replaced Ojha (18-1-84-0) at the other end.
An exquisite cover drive of the latter, his 12th, got Tendulkar to 99. He duly reached the landmark with a single in the bowler’s next over.
The home team had reached 350 for six (after 97 overs) at tea, and a couple of boundaries by Chavan, in the first over after resumption (by Mithun) helped raise the 100-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Chavan albeit couldn’t get what would have been a deserving half century, Mithun having him caught behind in his next over. The left-hander’s 89-ball 49 was inclusive of eight boundaries and he helped Tendulkar put a vital 103 runs for the seventh wicket, a partnership that helped the home side avoid follow-on.
Dhawal Kulkarni (10) helped Tendulkar add another 39 runs for the eighth wicket before hitting it straight to Vijay at mid-off, giving Ojha his first wicket.
Junaid Khan (8) hit a couple of boundaries before rather irresponsibly hitting a Harbhajan delivery to Mithun at mid-off. And when Vishal Dabholkar was adjuged leg before off Ojha in the nex over, it was all over for the home team.
Mumbai had been dismissed for 409, leaving Tendulkar stranded. The home team albeit got off to to the best possible start in the second innings.
A spectacular catch by Nayar at short midwicket ensured Kulkarni a wicket in his fifth, and Shikhar Dhawan [ Images ] was back to the pavilion without bothering the scorers. Vijay and Sreesanth helped RoI negotiate the remaining overs.
Photograph: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images