India 309-5 v Australia: India revel in Tendulkar's masterclass

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The Independent Online

Sachin Tendulkar cracked his 39th Test century to put his side in a strong position after the opening day of the fourth Test against Australia here yesterday. Playing possibly his last Test on Australian soil, the Indian batsman produced a vintage display to score an unbeaten 124 and help the tourists reach 309 for 5 at stumps.

The opener Virender Sehwag and middle-order batsman VVS Laxman also posted half-centuries as the Indians carefully set about building an imposing total on a flat pitch tailor-made for high scoring.

The Australians, 2-1 up in the four-match series, started well, capturing four early wickets but were unable to get rid of Tendulkar, who frustrated and tormented their bowlers for nearly five hours. "I was determined to get a big one here and it also happens to be Sir Don's [Bradman] home ground," Tendulkar said. "When I was batting I was not thinking about that, I was just concentrating, but I am very glad to get a hundred here."

The left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson dismissed the makeshift opener Irfan Pathan and the side's former captain Rahul Dravid to give the Australians the upper hand before lunch. The fast bowler Brett Lee then removed Sehwag early in the middle session before wrist-spinner Brad Hogg won a debatable lbw decision against Sourav Ganguly to reduce India to 156 for 4.

Tendulkar and Laxman steadied the innings, though, with a 126-run partnership for the fifth wicket before Lee finally got rid of Laxman after tea, leaving wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to carry on with Tendulkar to stumps.

Tendulkar has been the form batsman in this intriguing series, scoring an unbeaten hundred in the Sydney Test and half-centuries in Melbourne and Perth, but saved his best for last. He started cautiously but brought up his 50 off 77 balls then reached triple figures off 133 deliveries, smashing part-time spinner Michael Clarke down the ground for a six then a four to pass the milestone.

Australia spinner Hogg hailed Tendulkar's efforts and said: "Any innings when Sachin is batting is a joy to watch but you'd rather him be making the hundreds against someone else. It's just fantastic to be out there and to be playing against him. He's up there as the greatest player the world has ever seen. You can put him alongside Brian Lara and the Don.

"He deserves that standing ovation when he comes out and hopefully he plays a few more years down the track because he's such a fantastic player to watch."

Laxman, who also scored a hundred in Sydney, had a let-off on 37 when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, but was unable to really cash in and make a big score. He brought up his fifty with successive boundaries off Hogg but departed in the next over, gloving a catch to Gilchrist off a sharp Lee delivery.

Pathan was promoted to open the innings after Wasim Jaffer was dropped to make way for spinner Harbhajan Singh, but the strategy did not work and he fell cheaply when Johnson found the edge and Gilchrist took a routine catch. Dravid shared a 48-run partnership with Sehwag before he also fell to a catch behind off Johnson, getting a thick edge to Ricky Ponting at second slip.

Sehwag struck six boundaries in a typically dashing innings. He raced to his half-century off just 68 balls but fell early in the second session when he edged Lee to Matthew Hayden at first slip.

"The pitch should take more spin as the game goes on," Hogg said. "Over the last couple of years it's always been pretty good for batting if you get in so it's up to our batsmen to make sure they post a good sort and we bowl well in the second innings."

Adelaide scoreboard

India won toss

India – First Innings

V Sehwag c Hayden b Lee 63

I K Pathan c Gilchrist b Johnson 9

R Dravid c Ponting b Johnson 18

S R Tendulkar not out 124

S C Ganguly lbw b Hogg 7

V V S Laxman c Gilchrist b Lee 51

†M S Dhoni not out 6

Extras (b8 lb15 w1 nb7) 31

Total (for 5, 86 overs) 309

Fall: 1-34 2-82 3-122 4-156 5-282

To bat: * A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, R P Singh, I Sharma.

Bowling: Lee 22-3-62-2; Johnson 25-4-72-2; Clark 16-4-48-0; Hogg 18-2-78-1; Clarke 5-0-26-0.

Umpires: Asaf Rauf (Pak) and B Bowden (NZ).