Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma hit hundreds, but it was batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar who stole the limelight with a majestic 74 in his farewell match, as India took a firm grip of the second Test against the West Indies, at the Wankhede stadium, in Mumbai, on Friday.
When stumps were drawn on Day 2, the home side had the West Indies tottering at 43 for 3 in the second innings.
Millions of Tendulkar's adoring fans looked forward to one last magical knock from the blade of the 40-year-old batting legend as he walked into the ground on Friday morning to resume his innings at the overnight score of 38. He played an array of breathtaking shots, much to the delight of a packed stadium, but the dream three-figure mark eluded him.
However, India rode on Rohit Sharma's unbeaten 111, his second consecutive century, and Cheteshwar Pujara's 113 to put up an imposing 495, which gave them a 313-run lead.
Spinner Shane Shillingford was the pick of the West Indies bowlers, claiming five wickets for 179 runs after toiling for 43 overs. Narsingh Deonarine chipped in with two, including the scalp of Tendulkar.
With three days left in the game, the West Indies, 270 runs in arrears and seven wickets in hand, will have to come up with something extraordinary to save the match.
At stumps, Chris Gayle was unbeaten on 6.
It was Tendulkar who hogged the limelight for the second day running with a sublime knock that included some of his trademark shots, which got rousing cheers from the crowd and a host of VVIPs, including Congress vice-President Rahul Gandhi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Bollywood superstars Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan.
But silence descended at the Wankhede when he thick-edged a Deonarine delivery to Darren Sammy at first slip. The crowd though quickly recovered from the blow and gave Tendulkar a standing ovation as he trudged off the ground one.
The magnitude of the occasion, in fact, ended up overshadowing the hundreds by Pujara and Rohit, who added 80 runs with No 11 Mohammed Shami (11) to not only get to his hundred but also give India a substantial lead.
Starting the day on 38, Tendulkar looked fluent during his 68-minute stay at the wicket on the day. He faced 118 balls, hitting 12 boundaries, all of which were pure class.
He added 148 runs for the second wicket with Pujara, who hit a patient 113 en route his fifth Test century.
Pujara hit 12 fours in his 167 ball knock, while Rohit’s unbeaten knock of 111 came off 127 deliveries, laced with 11 fours and three sixes.
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Playing his first Test at home, Rohit gave a lesson on how to bat with a tail-ender as he completed his second successive Test century, having got a reprieve on 85 as he offered a catch in the deep but Shane Shillingford overstepped.
Mohammed Shami joined Rohit when he was on 46 and the two put on 80 runs for the final wicket with Rohit shielding Shami by taking bulk of strike.
A six over long on off Marlon Samuels brought up a well-deserved century and with that an exalted celebration.
Deonarine's name will certainly feature in the record books for years to come as it is unlikely that the West Indies will be able to get India bat second time on a pitch that has shown considerable wear and tear.
However, the time he was at the crease was pure unbridled joy for all those who witnessed a 'Vintage Tendulkar' on display.
With Pujara playing second fiddle by rotating the strike, Tendulkar played some delightful strokes that were taken out of the top drawer.
His late cut off Shane Shillingford, a backfoot punch through the covers off Tino Best and the drive past Best that brought up his half-century were pure class. It was Tendulkar's 68th Test half-century and it came off 91 deliveries.
Best, who first tried to unsettle Tendulkar with bouncers and then verbal volleys surrendered in the end as he had hands on his knees at the end of one of his overs.
It was Tendulkar who gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder, probably to remind him "who's the boss today".
The hallmark of Tendulkar's innings was his assured footwork, leaving a lot of fuller deliveries outside the off-stump and getting the body behind the ball while executing those drives.
Probably, being pressure-free helped him to go for his shots as each and every stroke—attack or defence was lustily cheered by a vociferous crowd.
Credit should also be given to Pujara, who kept his composure as the atmosphere was very overwhelming and emotionally over-riding too.
He nudged around and when he got loose deliveries, he didn't forget to punish them. He played some free-flowing drives and never really looked like any sort of trouble.
He completed his century with a single off Deonarine as wife Puja applauded from the VIP stands.
The Pujara-Virat Kohli (57) duo added 94 runs in less than 22 overs to maintain a run-rate of above 4.5. Kohli played effortlessly as he reached his 50 in only 53 balls.
However, the talented Delhi batsman got a bit bogged down as he could score only seven off his next 24 deliveries before edging one Shillingford ball to Sammy in the slips.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (4) was dismissed cheaply as Best finally struck with the second new ball, getting the Indian captain to edge one to the slip fielder.
Rohit hit some elegant strokes but once Ashwin (30) was out after their 44-run stand off only 45 balls, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pragyan Ojha returned in quick succession, he was running out of partners.
But Shami's determined effort helped him complete the century.
There wasn't much to write about the West Indies, however, save Shillingford's five-wicket haul and Darren Sammy's five catches.
Their batting in the second innings too was as abysmal as the first and they lost the wickets of Kieran Powell, Tino Best and Darren Bravo with just 43 on the board.
Image: Rohit Sharma celebrates after posting his second successive century