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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Ashwin provides the cheer after Tendulkar disappoints

Ashwin provides the cheer after Tendulkar disappoints

Last updated on: November 25, 2011 17:21 IST

Even before the players walked out to the field to start the fourth day's proceedings in the third and final Test between India and West Indies, it was apparent who would hog the limelight during the early part.

As on the third day, the fans came in big numbers to the Wankhede to watch Sachin Tendulkar score that much-awaited century of centuries.

- Scorecard

The fact that the Master Blaster was unbeaten on 67 increased their hopes. Some paid more to get seats of their choice, some braved police aggression and a few even stayed in South Mumbai overnight to avoid unnecessary travelling.

To give credit where it is due, Tendulkar started on a confident note, flicking the sixth ball he faced (off Ravi Rampaul) to the square leg fence. A couple of overs later he drove Fidel Edwards to the extra cover boundary before a stylish upper cut cleared the fence.

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The 38-year-old hit the ball well till he was at the crease. However, it was his over-aggression that cost him his wicket.

Ravichandran AshwinRampaul struck with the final delivery of his fourth over, the bounce doing the trick and Darren Sammy taking a comfortable catch at second slip.

There was a stony silence at the Wankhede. The fans couldn't believe the Master had faltered having come tantalizing so close.

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They had waited for three days to see their hero score that landmark hundred on his home ground.

In the end that wait proved to be an exercise in futility.

Tendulkar's 153-ball 94 was inclusive of eight hits to the fence and two over it. But for the third time in four months he was dismissed having come a striking distance of the impending milestone.

India's captain MS Dhoni (8) did not last long either, cleaned up by his Caribbean counterpart. His dismissal reduced the hosts to a precarious 331 for six -- VVS Laxman (32) having been dismissed off the first ball he faced in the day (off Edwards) -- requiring a further 60 runs to make West Indies bat again.

It was at this juncture that two of fresh faces in Indian cricket combined forces to take the team out of doldrums.

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Virat Kohli and R Ashwin put on a vital 97-run partnership for the seventh wicket, helping the hosts avoid follow-on.

In the process both batsmen registered their maiden Test fifties.

Kohli (52) perished soon after, hitting a Devendra Bishoo delivery straight to Marlon Samuels at mid-on. The latter was in action again, first having Ishant Sharma (5) caught by Dwayne Bravo at short leg and rattling Varun Aaron's (4) timber.

Meanwhile, Ashwin was on the one hand closing in on a maiden Test hundred, and on the other losing out on all but one partner.

To his credit, though, Pragyan Ojha survived 14 balls, despite failing to open his account. It allowed his fellow-spinner rake up the required runs. Ashwin completed a richly deserved hundred by guiding a Rampaul delivery between slip and gully.

He, however, perished the next ball, misting a pull and giving a simple catch to Barath at midwicket. The 26-year-old's 103 came off just 118 balls and was inclusive a whopping 15 boundaries and a couple of sixes as well.

The effort, coupled with his five for 156 in the West Indies' first innings, nonetheless, made Ashwin the first player since Jacques Kallis in 2002 -- 139 not out and five for 21 against Bangladesh at Senwes Park -- to take a fiver and score a ton in the same Test.

The home team was dismissed for 482 in the first innings, giving the visitors a 108-run lead. They ended the day at 81 for two (for an overall lead of 189), Ojha having accounted for both Barath (3) and Edwards (17) early on in their second innings.

Kraigg Brathwaite was unbeaten on 34 and giving him company was Darren Bravo on 27, the two having put on a valuable 51 runs for the third wicket.

In the final analysis the day was all about a disappointment, and surprise.

The fans had come to see Tendulkar score a hundred. They went back having witnessed Ashwin register one.

It was not the perfect alternative. Yet, it did offer succour to the many broken hearts. It is not very difficult to satisfy Indian cricket fans in any case. 

Bikash Mohapatra