Tendulkar, Gambhir save India

Sachin scripts 43rd century as hosts hold Sri Lanka to a draw on final day

Tendulkar, Gambhir save India

VVS Laxman (L) and Sachin Tendulkar greet each other on the final day of first test between India and Sri Lanka at Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad on Friday. PTI Having come through a test of their resolve and character on the final day of the first Test against Sri Lanka on Friday, India opted to bat on when the mandatory overs began, Tendulkar eyeing a 43rd Test ton to cap off celebrations for completing 20 years in international cricket.

Kumar Sangakkara, obviously frustrated by the placidity of a surface that would have played true even over the next three days, decided that Test hundreds had to be earned. Under instructions, Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath adopted negative lines, almost as if they were determined to deny Tendulkar his moment under the sun.
It needed some innovation and enterprise from the master to close in on three-figures, attained through a scrambled single to mid-off, at which point the match was thankfully called off with India 412 for four after having trailed by 334 on the first innings.

Tendulkar’s (100 n.o., 295m, 211b, 11x4) closing act was merely the icing on the cake of a tenacious second-innings batting display from India, necessitated by Sri Lanka opening up that potentially decisive advantage. It did take some of the attention away from another pugnacious effort from opener Gautam Gambhir (114, 337m, 230b, 13x4), who brought up his third second-innings hundred in as many Tests, but then again, Tendulkar has always overshadowed everyone else in the Indian team.

For all their persistence and perseverance, Sri Lanka ran into a brick wall on the final day, which India began at 190 for two. Their best hopes rested with early strikes, but an obdurate Gambhir and a surprisingly resilient nightwatchman Amit Mishra gave them no joy, dead-batting everything the Lankans threw at them.

Even by close on the fourth evening, Sri Lanka were aware that on this pitch, they needed a miracle, or a slew of generous offerings from the hosts, to pull off their first Test win in India. With neither forthcoming, their spirits sagged straightaway, their cause further hampered by a hamstring tear that threatens to keep Dammika Prasad out of the second Test.

Gambhir is fast becoming something of a go-to man in a crisis. Following his 643-minute 137 in a similar situation in Napier in March, the left-hander once again cut out all frills, refusing to hit a stroke in anger unless the ball was a rank long hop and offering a dead defensive blade that began to grow increasingly broad by the minute.

Neither the virtuoso, Muttiah Muralitharan, nor Herath could extract any purchase on a last-day track whose only concession to the bowler was the very occasional shooter. It needed a spectacular catch from Tillakaratne Dilshan at leg gully to get rid of Mishra, but by then, 48 precious minutes had been eaten up in the morning even if the score board had gone nowhere. Tendulkar arrived and stamped his authority with a series of blazing strokes before pulling back with lunch approach. Taking the cue from his celebrated partner, Gambhir suddenly got on the bike and raced to a seventh Test ton, after which he again toed his senior’s line by embracing circumspection.

Suddenly, without warning and totally against the run of play, Gambhir played his first false stroke, stepping out to hoist Herath over long-off and succeeding only in putting up a catch to deepish mid-off. At 275 for four, India were still 59 adrift with three hours left to play, but Tendulkar and VVS Laxman settled queasy stomachs in the change room with an unseparated stand of 137 (196m, 296b).

Tendulkar, who reached 30,000 international runs on 35 and has been accused in the past of not doing his bit often enough in saving Test matches, was a picture of grim determination, hardly allowing himself to lose focus of the final goal. There were inevitable strokes of class from him and Laxman, but the emphasis was mainly on survival, a task accomplished with ease and no little comfort.Score Board

INDIA (I Innings): 426 all out in 104.5 overs

SRI LANKA (I Innings): 760/7 decl in 202.4 overs

INDIA (II Innings, O/n: 190/2):
Gambhir c Prasad b Herath     114
(337m, 230b, 13x4)
Sehwag c Mathews b Herath     51
(73m, 67b, 7x4)
Dravid lbw Welegedara    38
(98m, 66b, 6x4)
Mishra c Dilshan b Mathews     24
(69m, 51b, 4x4)
Tendulkar (not out)    100
(295m, 211b, 11x4)
Laxman (not out)    51
(196m, 160b, 5x4)
Extras (B-12, LB-9, W-2, NB-11)    34
Total (for 4 wkts, 129 overs)    412
Fall of wickets: 1-81 (Sehwag), 2-169 (Dravid), 3-209 (Mishra), 4-275 (Gambhir).
Bowling: Welegedara 21-1-76-1 (w-2, nb-2), Prasad 13-0-56-0 (nb-3), Herath 40-6-97-2, Muralitharan 38-6-124-0 (nb-6), Mathews 15-6-29-1, Dilshan 1-0-2-0, Paranavitana 1-0-7-0.

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