With so much drama, excitement and theatre on the first three days, a sense of inevitability about the result going into the fourth, and so many topics already covered, what was there going to be to write about today I wondered
Origin story, and Vic v NSW rivalry? Check.
Smugly name dropping Chappell and O’Keefe? Done. An array of Oxford St moonlighting anecdotes? Also covered.
However, each day of sport will always offer up something new, and Tendulkar’s quest for his century of centuries was always going to be the story, but, much like Frodo trying to return the ring to the fires of Mount Doom, he was going to need a partner to help him arrive.
So if Tendulkar was going to be Frodo (he certainly is the right height), who would play the role of the ever reliable, somewhat effeminate Sam?
Gautam Gambhir? Not quite.
He parried and thrust his way to an enterprising 83 before being undone by the man with the golden mind, Michael Clarke.
Making a habit of changing his bowlers at just the right moment, Siddle replaced a disappointing Pattinson and struck with his second ball of the day.
VVS Laxman? Ah, this was more promising.
As he smoothly made his way to the crease, it was easy to picture him enjoying life in the Shire, and I knew that we had our support act.
The elegant Indian has long been a tormentor of Australian attacks, and is thus a rightly feared and respected foe.
But he had been strangely subdued since arriving on these shores, seemingly intimidated by the hostile fast bowling our quick men had produced.
Arriving at the SCG with prior scores here of 167, 178 and 109 under his belt, it was clear he has an affinity with the ground, his very own Hobbiton away from home.
Despite a highest score of 2 from three innings this series, terrorized as he has been by our trio of pacemen, captain Michael Clarke somewhat bizarrely chose to greet him with the spin of Lyon.
This worked in the favour of VVS, and he was as excited as a dwarf around mithril.
With wrists consisting only of honey, melted butter, and finely woven silk, he delighted in placing balls a metre out of each fielders grasp.
When in top form, Laxman has the unique ability to caress deliveries to the boundary, purposely ensuring they hit the rope mere inches from a frustrated opponent. And so it was this morning, as fielder after fielder strove desperately to rein them in, each effort an exercise in futility.
But let’s not forget that Laxman was a support act only, and a bigger story was potentially evolving.
Frodo’s quest for glory had begun the night before, mainly in laborious fashion, at one stage playing out 30 consecutive dots.
Surrounded by eleven Ringwraiths, each attempting to deny him his destiny, he defended grimly, and presented stoutly.
But another Sachin walked to the crease this morning, a Sachin with every thought bent on quick runs and a team-lifting century, a Sachin who didn’t just want to save this match, he wanted to win it! From 8 off 42, he belted his way to 45 off 72.
Brutal cuts. Destructive drives. And the now-famous uppercut/ramp shot, all followed by the patented ‘Tendulkar Twirl’, the flourish of the bat that he gives as his gaze follows ball to boundary.
As the journey progressed, the crowd was ticking off ten run milestones.
A glance to fine leg to bring up his 50.
A fortuitous inside edge to pass 60.
Another clip to the leg side, and 70 was reached.
Was more history going to be achieved in this match? Could hopes and dreams become reality? Or would a Gollum emerge from the Australian side, and snatch Frodo’s ‘ring’ away?
As Tendulkar was imperiously moving through his 70’s, the man who has made this test his own brought himself on to bowl.
There has been a lot of gold around Michael Clarke in his time in the public eye – golden hair, golden earrings, his perception as the golden child of Australian cricket.
In this match there had been golden runs, golden moves, golden catches. Could he now take a wicket with his golden arm?
As 1.2 billion people in India were holding their collective breath, and 80 sat next to the Indian Prince’s name on the scoreboard, the answer was, of course, yes, and the exhalations of disappointment were heard throughout the cricketing world.
Getting one to grip, bounce and spin just enough to kiss the outside edge of Tendulkar’s bat, Hussey gleefully accepted the catch.
If he and Clarke spend any more time working in tandem, wives and girlfriends will be on high alert.
So with the great man departing 20 runs too soon, it was left to a second new ball and the Hilfenhaus-led quicks to finish off the match.
With no Frodo left to support, Laxman’s Sam was felled on 66, and Khan and Ashwin bashed their way to some runs like frenzied orcs, but it was akin to watching credits roll in the cinema – the main show was over, and bit part players were of minimal interest.
So Australia, cast in the role of Sauron for this particular leg of Sachin’s journey into history, were able to deny the little hobbit-master once again from achieving his goal, and, as can seem the case when reading Lord of the Rings, the interminable wait for the story’s completion continues
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia