On the Front Foot: Sachin chases a double century milestone to sign off at Lord's

Of all the batsmen never to have scored a Test hundred at Lord's, Sachin Tendulkar is the most illustrious.

His great contemporaries, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara, are also absent from the dressing-room honours board that marks such a milestone, but Tendulkar is the only one still able to change that. His final chance may come in the First Test which begins on Thursday, though since he is 38 and appears to be improving it is not beyond the bounds that may return at 42. Should he do it, the feat will be the more extraordinary.

At present, Tendulkar has 99 international hundreds – 51 scored in Tests, 48 in one-day internationals. What better place to become the first to 100 international hundreds than Lord's?

Well, actually he might have preferred Chandigarh in the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan when he made 85, was dropped four times and it seemed the gods were looking after their own. Or the World Cup Final itself on his home turf of Mumbai, but that night he never came close.

No player, ancient or modern, has come close to such heights. Don Bradman's record of 29 Test hundreds stood for four decades. The highest combined total of hundreds behind Tendulkar is Ponting with 69 – 39 in Tests, 30 in one-dayers. Lara has 34 and 19. Jacques Kallis has 40 and 17.

Tendulkar has scored a hundred at Lord's, and a sizzler it was too. In 1998 he made 125 from 114 balls with 15 fours and four sixes as the Rest of the World beat MCC. It was not, however, an official international.

India's unlikely DRS ally

There is a campaign afoot to discredit the umpire Decision Review System. India now have backing from a most improbable quarter, the umpire Daryl Harper.

So critical was the India captain, MS Dhoni, of Harper's decisions in the First Test of the recent series in the West Indies that Harper retired, declining to stand in the Third. But in a valedictory swipe at the International Cricket Council, which he felt failed to support him, Harper also said the DRS was not technologically sound.

Camera speeds meant that Hawkeye could not be accurate because it was tracking from when the ball pitched, he said. This is also India's point. The fact that it is sufficiently accurate to avoid otherwise silly errors seems to have eluded them.

Although a watered down version – minus the predictive element – is now official ICC policy, replacing the previous official policy, it is still in trouble. Sri Lanka announced this week that DRS would not be used in their series against Australia next month because they could not afford it.

The diluted DRS is being used in the series between England and India. Expect much fun when the television replays show, for example, Tendulkar given out leg before on 99 with the ball slippingdown leg.

Be careful what you wish for

Had Duncan Fletcher been given a free hand, the Rupert Murdoch business and the press in general would have been sorted out yonks ago. Fletcher has made little secret of his loathing for the fourth estate, though he makes certain exceptions when it has suited him.

Still, he was congenial in his first (and perhaps last) press briefing of India's tour last Thursday in his capacity as their coach. It was intriguing to hear him on the DRS, which was his idea some 10 years ago. "From what I've heard and from speaking to people there are certain areas that are not 100 per cent correct."

When in Rome and all that.

Swann closes in on Laker

England's batsmen might be in form but Graeme Swann has never been out of it since entering Test cricket. He enters this series as the No 1 spin bowler in the world with 140 Test wickets.

He could overtake John Embury (147) and Fred Titmus (153) with only Jim Laker (193) among English off-spinners ahead of him. Swann has played only 32 Tests.


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