It wasn't Sachin
Tendulkar's day - and it wasn't Tendulkar's series.
For a while
it looked as if it might be. Resuming on 35 not out in front of an expectant
crowd at The Oval, the stage was set. There were 98 overs in the day, and India
had to bat long enough to force a draw. Tendulkar had a milestone to reach -
his 100th international hundred - and all day on a flat pitch to do it.
nearer the Little Master got to the rather large record, the less fitting the
innings seemed to be for the occasion.
things first - Tendulkar's career is the stuff of legend. He played his first
Test in the 1980s, and has scored international centuries in four different
decades. His run tally in one-day international cricket will surely never be
bettered - and his Test record may go the same way.
reaches triple figures for India next time, he will set a benchmark every bit
as iconic and untouchable as the legendary Don Bradman's Test average of 99.94,
or Muttiah Muralitharan's 800 Test wickets.
Look at the
margin to the next best. Ricky Ponting - no slouch with the willow - has 69
international hundreds. Tendulkar's mark already towers over it like Chris
Tremlett standing next to Ian Bell.
Bradman, who retired before he had a chance to nudge the average back above
100, Tendulkar will get a chance to set his record right. In fact, it is a
near-certainty he will do it. With no intention of retiring, and his place
untouchable in the team, the ton will come. Which is perhaps why Cowers found
himself feeling that it matters when and
how it comes.
had already ridden his luck to get to 72 not out at lunch.
had appealed for a stumping as Matt Prior whipped the bails off late on Sunday
evening, Tendulkar would not even have made it to the close of play.
Cook had held a tricky but gettable chance at short leg shortly before lunch,
again, Tendulkar could have had no complaints.
point after lunch it began to look as if fate (and England) were determined to
get him to the landmark. Which was good for Tendulkar, who batted like a man
starting to realise the enormity of what he was on the brink of achieving.
trapped him leg-before, only for the umpire to turn down an appeal which would
have been given had the referral system been available. It's hard to believe
that Swann, who was growing more and more exasperated that his wicket-balls
weren't getting wickets, would not have insisted upon reviewing it. Shortly
after, Tendulkar fenced at another Swann delivery, but Prior could not hold on.
fortune (what else could you call having Kevin Pietersen bowl moon balls as you near a century?) - interspersed, of course, with typically dashing strokeplay - had
helped Tendulkar to 91, but despite the vacuum of hope and expectation created
by his dismissal at the hands of Tim Bresnan, the right verdict was reached.
alternate world where Tendulkar scored his century today, a personal landmark
would have covered up, just a touch, India's inadequacies in the Test and series.
It would have relegated the brilliant Rahul Dravid, voted man of the series by
England coach Andy Flower, into the shadows.
even have meant that the series would be remembered, in time, for Tendulkar's
ton, rather than England's dominance. Take a look back at England's near-whitewash
of the West Indies in the Caribbean in 2004. Did you think of Steve Harmison's
seven for 12 first - which turned the series irrevocably England's way - or
Brian Lara's unbeaten 400, scored on a featherbed of a pitch in Antigua with
the series long-gone at 3-0?
innings ended his team-mates reminded us of India's shortcomings. From 262 for
three to 283 all out, the tourists collapsed quicker than a European stock
market, as if Tendulkar's failure necessitated the team's failure.
having stressed the need for the milestone to be made at a more opportune,
meaningful time, and in a more significant way, Tendulkar will probably now
reach the total clubbing a century in a dead rubber in the one-day series in
Cardiff in mid-September. The stuff of boyhood dreams and all that. But let's not be too downcast that we didn't
see it today.
TALKING POINT OF THE DAY: The ICC award a Mace, of all things,
to the world's number one Test side! Many had no idea until the trophy turned
up - but is it a contender for sport's most bizarre award? Leave your thoughts below!
USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "Bell and Pietersen each score a double hundred
and a 150 in the series and don't get a look-in for man of the series. Have
England really been that good? You know I think they have." Bobito marries user comment of the day
with a contender for a stat of the day.
TWEET OF THE DAY: "England must be world's best. Whatever happens at
Oval, they've beaten all nine Test oppos by an innings in the last series they
faced them" Simon Wilde takes
a leaf out of Bobito's book, coupling Tweet of the day with a contender for
stat of the day.
STAT OF THE DAY: History didn't happen at the Test - but it did in the subcontinent. Lasith Malinga became the first bowler
in the history of the game to take three international hat-tricks when helped
reduce Australia from 210 for five to 211 all out in the final ODI of the
series in Colombo.
SNAP OF THE DAY: James Anderson didn't have the best of times with the ball today - but
as this photo proves beyond all reasonable doubt, it's because he is a ghost.