Sachin leads India's fightback
Sachin Tendulkar on Sunday created history by becoming the first cricketer to score 50 Test centuries but India found themselves staring at defeat on the fourth day of the opening Test against South Africa in Centurion.
Tendulkar (107 not out) played a sublime chanceless innings and shared a 172-run stand for the seventh wicket with his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (90) to lead a spirited fightback by India before the visitors slumped to 454 for eight when stumps were drawn early due to rain on a historic day at SuperSport Park.
With an entire final day remaining, India's chances of saving the match depend on Tendulkar and how the elements play a role in the high-profile series opener.
But it appears almost impossible for India to save the game with just two wickets remaining.
Image: India's Sachin Tendulkar celebrates scoring his century against South Africa on the fourth day of the first Test in Pretoria
Tendulkar-Dhoni revive Indian innings
Tendulkar and Dhoni, who joined forces when an innings defeat was staring on India at 277 for six just before lunch, were never in discomfort while facing the South African bowlers throughout their innings. They denied any success to the South African bowlers for more than three hours while adding runs at a brisk pace.
Tendulkar reached the historic moment with a single off Steyn, a perfectly placed drive that pierced through cover and extra cover midway into the final session.
Earlier, Tendulkar and Dhoni denied the South Africans any success in the post-lunch session as India reached 394 for six at the tea break.
The duo, who added 117 runs from 28.1 overs, were in no trouble facing the South African bowlers as they scored at a brisked pace and reducing the deficit to 90 runs.
Image: India's MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar reacts during the fourth day of their first Test match against South Africa in Pretoria
Steyn ends Ishant's stay
Tendulkar, who came in at the fall of nightwatchman Ishant Sharma at 214 for three in the morning session stood rock solid while Dhoni was even more aggressive than his senior partner at one stage.
South Africa had to work hard for the breakthrough which eventually came in the form of Ishant's wicket with the Indian offering a simple catch to Hashim Amla while trying to work a Steyn delivery to the square region nearly an hour into the morning session.
Dhoni gave Dale Steyn some special treatment by hitting the South African strike bowler for a flurry of fours that too after the home side had taken the new ball.
South Africa took the new ball after 2.1 overs in the post-lunch session but Tendulkar and Dhoni were undeterred as they punished Morne Morkel with three fours in the same over -- two of them coming from the Indian captain's blade.
Tendulkar raised his fifty, his 60th in Test cricket, with a cracking four off Steyn, a slap through extra cover. He had faced 94 balls for his fifty.
Dhoni also punished Steyn for a four in the same over and then hit three boundaries off Jacques Kallis as he raced to his 20th Test fifty in quick time, from just 41 balls with the help of nine fours.
Surprisingly, the Indian duo did not take much chance against left-arm spinner Paul Harris who was hit for just a four -- by Dhoni.
Image: South Africa's Dale Steyn celebrates with team-mates after picking up India's Ishant Sharma duing the first Test in Centurion
India could only manage 87 runs in morning session
Earlier, India lost the wickets Rahul Dravid (43), VVS Laxman (8) and Suresh Raina (5) and Ishant (23) in the morning session and trailed by 207 runs as they reached 277 for six at lunch.
Resuming at 190 for two, the visitors added just 87 runs from the 33.4 overs they faced in the morning session which started half an hour before scheduled time to compensate for loss of time on the first day.
The SuperSport Park has eased out considerably with fast bowlers not posing too much of a problem as they had done on the first day but Dravid and Ishant started cautiously and runs came in trickles initially.
Dravid dug deep, playing the balls on merit while Ishant showed intent to play shots and hit three fours two off Lonwabo Tsotsobe and one of Dale Steyn. He added 16 runs to his overnight seven before getting out.
Dravid got a faint edge straight through to Boucher to leave India at 242 for four, still trailing by 242 runs.
Dravid's 43 came from 109 balls and was studded with six fours.
After the fall of Dravid, much was expected of Laxman but he departed without much contribution to give Tsotsobe his first wicket of the match. He got a thick edge of a full delivery outside off to land straight to gully fielder Ashwell Prince.
Raina did not last long as he edged a good length ball of Kallis to Paul Harris at first slip while trying to play it behind point.
Image: South Africa's Morne Morkel celebrates after picking up Rahul Dravid during the first Test at Centurion
Dhoni falls in nervous 90s
After putting up 172-run stand, Steyn produced a peach of delivery to dismiss Dhoni. The Indian captain was caught in an awkward position and fended it to Boucher, who took a neat catch, diving to his right.
Once the big partnership between Tendulkar and Dhoni was broken, India lost Harbhajan Singh who could score just one run from two balls just before rain interruption.
Image: India's MS Dhoni walks back to the pavillion after being dismissed by Dale Steyn