Sachin Tendulkar has immortalised February 24, 2010 in cricket folklore. With a few hurried steps on his heavy, cramping legs across 22 yards, he took a giant leap for limited-overs cricket, becoming the first man to score a double-century in one-day internationals yesterday.
No one had reached that milestone in 39 years and 2,962 matches of the abridged game. Saeed Anwar, the former Pakistan batting maestro, came close with a classy 194 at Chennai in 1997. Charles Coventry, of Zimbabwe, got closer when he finished unbeaten on the same score in Bulawayo against Bangladesh in August. With a deft flick off his toes for two in the 46th over, Tendulkar consigned those previous bests to the bin.
But he was forced to endure an agonising wait before he could reach 200. He faced only nine of the last 30 balls as MS Dhoni hogged the strike, testing the patience of the fans. Tendulkar waited patiently, punching his back and legs to keep the cramps in check. And then the moment came, off the third delivery of the final over, bowled by Charl Langeveldt. A cut to backward point and the whole stadium was on its feet even before Tendulkar had completed the run. The dressing room was no different, with a few of the youngsters bowing in reverence.
On the pitch, there was no great show of emotion. After bettering Anwar and Coventry's mark, Tendulkar did not even bother to raise his bat. A quick shake of hands with Mark Boucher, the South Africa wicketkeeper, was about as far as the celebration got. On reaching 200, exactly two months shy of his 37th birthday, Tendulkar finally showed his emotions; the helmet came off and was held aloft alongside the bat as the face turned towards to the sky.
Tendulkar has celebrated each of his previous 92 centuries in international cricket - 47 in Tests and 45 in ODIs - in a similar way. There was nothing extra in Gwalior last night. But, record aside, the innings itself is one that Tendulkar will treasure for a long time, especially that flick off Dale Steyn in the 35th bowler, when he glided across the stumps and dragged the ball to the midwicket fence, balancing on one leg. Tendulkar cracked 24 other fours and three sixes in his momentous, unbeaten 147-ball knock, but that one was particularly special.
Steyn walked back to his mark in amazement. He might have been able to enjoy that shot if he was not the bowler to suffer. But then, no one was spared the onslaught by Tendulkar, Dinesh Karthik (79), Yousuf Pathan (36) and Dhoni who slammed 68 off 37 balls. Langeveldt was the most economical bowler as India posted 401 for three, and even he was taken for 70 from his 10 overs. Faced with the mammoth chase, a demoralised South Africa succumbed to a 153-run defeat, despite a battling, unbeaten 114 from AB de Villiers.
The win, which sealed the fate of the three-match series with a game still to play, ensures India will stay behind Australia in the ODI rankings. Had South Africa won the series, they would have displaced Dhoni's team. Not one of the Proteas, though, will begrudge Tendulkar's record. It was apt that cricket's greatest run-scorer should be the first to cross this magical milestone. firstname.lastname@example.org
India: Virender Sehwag c Steyn b Parnell 9 Sachin Tendulkar not out 200 Dinesh Karthik c Gibbs b Parnell 79 Yusuf Pathan c de Villiers b van der Merwe 36 Mahendra Singh Dhoni not out 68 Extras (lb 3, w 5, nb 1) 9 Total (for three wickets in 50 overs) 401 Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-219, 3-300 Bowling: Dale Steyn 10-0-89-0 Wayne Parnell 10-0-95-2 Roelof van der Merwe 10-0-62-1 Charl Langeveldt 10-0-70-0 Jean Paul Duminy 5-0-38-0 Jacques Kallis 5-0-44-0 South Africa: Hashim Amla c Nehra b Sreesanth 34 Herschelle Gibbs b Kumar 7 Roelof van der Merwe c Raina b Sreesanth 12 Jacques Kallis b Nehra 11 AB de Villiers not out 114 Alviro Petersen b Jadeja 9 Jean Paul Duminy lbw Pathan 0 Mark Boucher lbw Pathan 14 Wayne Parnell b Nehra 18 Dale Steyn b Sreesanth 0 Charl Langeveldt c Nehra b Jadeja 12 Extras (lb 5, w 8, nb 4) 17 Total (all out in 42.5 overs) 248 Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-47, 3-61, 4-83, 5-102, 6-103, 7-134, 8-211, 9-216, 10-248 Bowling: Praveen Kumar 5-0-31-1 Ashish Nehra 8-0-60-2 Sreesanth 7-0-49-3 Ravindra Jadeja 8.5-0-41-2 Yusuf Pathan 9-1-37-2 Virender Sehwag 5-0-25-0