Tendulkar hits 50th Test ton but India toil

India 136 & 454-8 South Africa 620-4 dec

Sachin Tendulkar yesterday became the first batsman to score 50 centuries in Test cricket. The 37-year-old achieved the feat, and also passed 14,500 runs, as India battled to make South Africa bat again in the first Test.

Tendulkar moved to 95 by driving Paul Harris for six, then edged towards 100 – ultimately reaching the milestone in his 175th Test with a single off Dale Steyn. It was the second notable feat achieved by an Indian batsman yesterday after Rahul Dravid became the third man, after Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, to reach 12,000 runs in Test cricket.

Despite their heroics, India still finished day four on the brink of defeat. Needing 484 to make the Proteas bat again, India were 454 for 8 when a storm came in to end play in the final over. That they batted out the day was thanks to a partnership of 172 between Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (90) after India had slipped from 190 for 2 to 277 for 6 in the morning session. The only highlight of that session for India came when Dravid reached his milestone in typically unspectacular fashion with a single off Harris in the 64th over.

By that time, though, nightwatchman Ishant Sharma had already fallen. He ate up the best part of 10 overs in the morning before clipping Steyn to Hashim Amla at short leg for 23.

Dravid and Tendulkar then continued to frustrate the Proteas but when Dravid was caught behind off Morne Morkel for 43, he became the first of three to fall for 35 runs.

VVS Laxman played an injudicious shot off Lonwabo Tsotsobe, edging to gully, before Suresh Raina offered catching practice to Harris at first slip. That left them 277 for 6 at lunch and on the brink of defeat. But captain Dhoni launched an astonishing counter-attack with a flurry of strokes. He began with a couple of drives of Tsotsobe for four, then dished out similar treatment to Morkel.

Tendulkar reached 50 by smashing Steyn through midwicket, but Dhoni was dominating, with three successive boundaries off Jacques Kallis and a single off Morkel taking him to his own half-century off just 40 balls. The onslaught slowed thereafter and Tendulkar was lucky to survive a strong lbw appeal off Harris.

After tea, Tendulkar rushed into the 90s before displaying signs of nerves. But he moved to 99 with two off an inside edge, then forced the next ball into the covers for the single he needed before raising his arms aloft to accept the congratulations of the crowd and opposition.

That joy was curtailed for India as Steyn produced a spiteful, lifting delivery to have Dhoni caught behind to end an exceptional partnership.

Most Test centuries

Sachin Tendulkar (India 50

Ricky Ponting (Australia) 39

Jacques Kallis (South Africa) 38

Sunil Gavaskar (India) 34

Brian Lara (West Indies) 34

Steve Waugh (Australia) 32

Rahul Dravid (India) 31

Matthew Hayden (Australia) ;30

Don Bradman (Australia) 29

Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) 28

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