Cricket: Tendulkar digs in

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Sachin Tendulkar, emerging from a fascinating duel with Curtly Ambrose for his first three-quarters of an hour, and the solid Rahul Dravid put India in a dominant position with a third-wicket partnership of 170 on the second day of the Third Test yesterday.

Tendulkar took the attack to the West Indies fast bowlers on a pitch still lively enough for every batsman to suffer blows on the gloves. Dravid, his level-headed colleague, was the perfect foil. It needed a spectacular flying catch by Sherwin Campbell in the gully to remove Tendulkar for 92 off Ian Bishop but Dravid finished the day unbeaten on 71 after five hours of dilligent application.

India were 249 for 3, only 49 in arrears on a pitch getting progressively better. When Tendulkar strolled out in the second over after lunch, India were 42 for 2, replying to 298, and a packed crowd of 12,000 anticipated West Indian superiority.

They watched enthralled as two of the great cricketers of the day engaged in a gripping contest. Time and again Ambrose passed Tendulkar's probing edge with sharp leg cutters or took him on the pads and thigh pad, with breakbacks. His line seldom strayed from off stump and his length was perfect.

But Tendulkar and Dravid came through unscathed and Tendulkar was never lax in dispatching the bad ball. While he was occasionally troubled by Bishop, he singled out Franklyn Rose and Mervyn Dillon for special attention.

Dillon had already been taken for three fours in his only over before lunch and when he came back Tendulkar cut, off drove and punched through the covers for three more boundaries. Rose had found Sidhu's edge for a keeper's catch with his very first ball but found Tendulkar an entirely different proposition. Introduced again for the last over before tea, he was contemptuously hooked over square leg for six and thumped off the back foot through the covers for four.

The West Indies had enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and would have been satisfied to have reached 298. It represented a recovery from 131 for 5 midway through the opening day and could be credited to the tenacity of the left-handed Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

He had completed his overdue maiden Test hundred late on the first day and carried it to 137 before he finally ran out of partners. He had occupied the crease for just under seven and a half hours and seemed entirely prepared to bat for another seven and a half.

Now that he has broken the barrier, like so many others before him who were tardy in getting to three figures, several more could follow.