Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/brett-mckay/2012/1/7/the-elusive-100

Brett McKay

The elusive 100

07 January 2012 3

He might make it in Melbourne, they said, but if not, he’ll definitely get it in Sydney.

Yet after scores of 73, 32, 41, and now 80, that pesky hundredth International century of Sachin Tendulkar’s remains the most talked about unreachable milestone in the cricket world.

Before the Border-Gavaskar series began, the bookies had framed a market about where in Australia the milestone would be reached. 

At the time, Sydney was marginally in front of Melbourne as favourite, but now, four innings later and still no milestone, suddenly “not this series” occupies the top line.

It’s now more than a year since Tendulkar’s last Test century, and nearly ten months since century number 99 was recorded in a one-dayer in March. 

Since then, all of India has sweated on his next big innings, only to have annoying bowlers around the world ruin the party.

On Day 4, that annoying bowler spoiling the fun was none other than Michael Clarke, as if he hadn’t already done enough in this Test. 

It seems that Clarke likes bowling to India too, as 14 of his 24 Test wickets have come against the former No.1 team.  Four of those have come at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

So the “century of centuries” bandwagon rolls onto Perth now, and you have to wonder if it’s starting to have an effect on the Indian team, or indeed the man himself.

Tendulkar has made four fifties and three other scores above 30 in his last nine Test innings.  He certainly hasn’t had a shortage of ‘starts’ from which to go on.

Indian coach Duncan Fletcher - in one of the few topics he has discussed since arriving in Australia - assures us that it’s not an issue, but for how much longer can this whole thing go on?

The answer remains “at least one more Test”, after Clarke found the edge of Tendulkar’s bat only for Brad Haddin to miss it completely and for Mike Hussey to take the neat deflection at first slip.

After showing no interest in playing shots before Stumps on Day 3, Tendulkar started with a flurry on Day 4 going at better than a run-a-ball in the first hour of the day, most of those flying away through the point region. 

It was little wonder the expectations rose about The Milestone.

Tendulkar was a crucial wicket in the context of India’s second innings, as he always is. 

Chasing 468 to make Australia bat again, the already flat SCG wicket was doing a credible impression of the Hume Highway, and Australia were bowling the part-timers for the last few overs with the old ball.

Tendulkar and VVS Laxman had added 103 in good time for the fourth wicket, and with really nothing happening, it appeared Australia had pinned all hopes on the new rock bringing the breakthrough. 

Mates were lining up to chip me about my overnight prediction that Sydney would be the fourth consecutive Test not to see a fifth day.

From nowhere though, Clarke gets Tendulkar and then with the new ball, Laxman, MS Dhoni, and Virat Kohli fell within six runs of each other to catapult this match way back in Australia’s favour.

The Laxman dismissal was quite possibly the ball of the summer.

A Ben Hilfenhaus delivery drifted in, not a lot, just a bit, and drew Laxman into playing down the inswinging line. 

As the ball jagged slightly away, Laxman looked back in horror as ball passed bat and clipped the very top corner of the off bail. 

It was just about the prefect delivery for a pace bowler.  Outstanding however you want to judge it, and it got better with every replay.

The look on Laxman's face back toward Hilfenhaus was priceless, too.

Ravi Ashwin’s late-innings fireworks pushed India’s total to 400, but that would be it as he was the last man out for a very well made 62 from just 76 balls. 

A decent case could be mounted for Ashwin batting too low in the Indian order currently, and it’s worth pointing out that other than Tendulkar, he’s scored more runs in this series at a better average than all batsmen walking out before him have.

Ashwin’s wicket, Hilfenhaus’ fifth for the innings, sealed the innings and 68-run win.

It was a tremendous fight back from the Australian bowlers after lunch, who up until that point had offered little resistance as Tendulkar and Laxman both looked to set themselves up for big scores.

The innings-win means the Australian team heads to Perth with maximum momentum, and will be hoping the WACA wicket offers as much assistance to torment the Indian batsmen as Melbourne and Sydney have so far. 

A 3-0 lead is not that hard to see eventuating.

One small hurdle is that young Victorian super-quick James Pattinson will play no further part in the series, after developing “early stage bone stress injury of the metatarsal bone of the left foot”, in the words of Cricket Australia Physiotherapist Alex Kountouris. 

It’s not a stress fracture, thankfully, but it’s enough for him to have the rest of the month off. 

Chairman of Selectors, John Inverarity, advised that Pattinson was always going to be rested for Perth anyway.

Ryan Harris and Mitchell Starc come into the 12-man squad, and both will be a chance of playing should the Perth wicket show glimpses of its brutally fast former glory.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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