Sachin Tendulkar falls agonisingly short of 100th Test century


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The Independent Online

Sachin Tendulkar fell just six runs short of his 100th international century before tailender Ravichandran Ashwin showed him the way with a maiden Test hundred in the third Test against the West Indies.

With bat dominating ball throughout the match to make a draw the only likely result, day four was set up for Tendulkar's landmark innings but he was dismissed by Ravi Rampaul for 94 to the dismay of a packed crowd in his native Mumbai.

Number eight Ashwin, who had scored just four runs in two innings in his first two matches, soon lifted the mood with an entertaining 103 in 118 balls before he was last man out with the score on 482.

That left the hosts 108 short of the Windies' 590.

An expectant crowd packed the Wankhede Stadium in the morning with the stage seemingly perfectly set for Tendulkar to finally end the wait for an unprecedented feat.

But the 38-year-old's adoring fans were left in stunned silence when, after racing to 94, he edged Rampaul to Darren Sammy at second slip.

Tendulkar had begun the day 33 runs short of the remarkable feat and while he took six from the first over, he lost his overnight partner VVS Laxman in the next.

Fidel Edwards removed Laxman (32) with his first ball of the day, slicing a loose drive to Marlon Samuels at gully.

The focus of attention remained very much on Tendulkar though, and he looked set to oblige the waiting Indian public when he upper-cut Edwards for six to race into the 90s.

At that point Tendulkar had taken 26 runs from 18 balls but with the script seemingly written, Rampaul played the role of party-pooper as Tendulkar tried to force a back-foot drive that instead flew into the waiting hands of Sammy.

Rampaul then squeezed a yorker into Mahendra Singh Dhoni's stumps as a now-rattled India found themselves in danger of failing to avoid the follow-on at 331 for six.

Virat Kohli steadied matters alongside Ashwin in a productive period before lunch.

Kohli registered a maiden Test half-century but fell soon after for 52 to give Devendra Bishoo his first wicket of the match.

Ashwin was slapping the ball to the boundary at will at the other end - including two sixes off Bishoo - but lost both Ishant Sharma (five) and Varun Aaron (four) as he closed in on three figures.

Pragyan Ojha kept him company as a top-edged four brought him to 99 and a delicate steer through third man ushered in the hundred.

Rampaul beat him for pace off the very next ball to end the innings and bring about tea.