MUMBAI, India, November 25 – Sachin Tendulkar missed an unprecedented 100th international century by just six runs before India avoided a follow-on in the third and final Test against the West Indies on Friday.
India were bowled out for 482 in their first innings at tea in reply to the West Indies’ 590, with Ravichandran Ashwin cracking a brisk 103 in only his third Test for a maiden hundred on the penultimate day.
India, needing 391 to avoid the follow-on, were struggling at 331-6 in the morning session before Virat Kohli (52) and Ashwin added 97 valuable runs for the seventh wicket.
Ashwin also became the third Indian after Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar to grab five wickets and score a century in the same innings of a Test.
It was the first time in the history of Test cricket that 11 half-centuries or more were scored in the first innings of a match, with the West Indies making six and India five.
Tendulkar (94) looked set to complete a century of centuries as he had been timing the ball magnificently before falling to a loose shot, trying to drive on the up to be caught by Darren Sammy at second slip off paceman Ravi Rampaul.
While the West Indies celebrated the big wicket, the master batsmen walked back dejectedly and nearly 15,000 cheering spectators suddenly fell silent at the 32,000-capacity Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Tendulkar, 67 overnight, smashed two sixes and eight fours in his 153-ball knock.
Skipper Sammy’s words came true a day after he said his team hoped to break a “few Indian hearts” by trying to get local hero Tendulkar out early with a disciplined bowling performance. In fact, his team broke millions of hearts.
The West Indies also removed Venkatsai Laxman (32) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (eight) in the morning to put pressure on India, with paceman Fidel Edwards and seamer Sammy taking one wicket apiece.
It was the 10th time in an illustrious 184-Test career that Tendulkar had fallen in the nineties.
Tendulkar, who scored his 99th international hundred against South Africa in a World Cup match in Nagpur in March, also came close to achieving the feat in the fourth Test in England in August before being dismissed for 91.
The West Indies took the second new ball in the opening over of the day, only to see Tendulkar flick Rampaul for two runs and then past square-leg for four in the same over.
India, however, suffered a setback in the next over when Laxman fell at his overnight score, driving Edwards to gully where Marlon Samuels took the catch.
But there was no stopping Tendulkar, who firmly straight-drove Rampaul for a four and then drove Edwards past mid-off and uppercut over the slips for a six in the same over to move into the nineties before disaster struck.
India lead 2-0 in the series after winning the opening Test in New Delhi by five wickets and the second match in Kolkata by an innings and 15 runs.