There are few sights in cricket, if any, more aesthetically pleasing than a Sachin Tendulkar giving a batting masterclass. The right-hander is a delight for connoisseurs when he starts using world cricket's heaviest willow like a magic wand as he did in Colombo yesterday.
It is in moments like these that the late Sir Don Bradman saw glimpses of himself in the Indian. There is little hope for the best of bowlers on days such as these. The Sri Lankans must have been hoping to remove Tendulkar cheaply in the final of the Compaq Cup, but it was not to be. Battling cramps and batting with a runner later on, Tendulkar rolled back the years to script a magnificent hundred and guide India to victory.
The exquisite 138, his 44th century in one-day internationals, helped India post an imposing 319 for five, breaking a run of five defeats in completed tournament finals against Sri Lanka, who eventually finished on 273 all out. Harbhajan Singh took the wind out of the Sri Lanka reply after the opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan (42) and Sanath Jayasuriya (36) had raced to 60 from the first seven overs. He sent Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene back in quick succession and ended the resistance of Thilina Kandamby (66) to finish with five for 56.
The fate of the match, however, was decided in the afternoon when Tendulkar underlined his class. Raj Singh Dungarpur, a former president of the Indian cricket board and mentor to the Little Master, would have marvelled at the innings. Dungarpur passed away on Saturday and Tendulkar's knock was a perfect tribute. It was also a balm to India's cricketing pride, which was battered on Saturday after the 139-run defeat to Sri Lanka.
Tendulkar opened with Rahul Dravid (39), a partnership that boasted a combined total of 762 ODIs and more than 27,200 runs. While Dravid dropped anchor, Tendulkar was in full flow, unfurling a number of pleasing cover drives early on and then a couple of flicks off his pads. That, of course, was just the start. The 36-year-old Tendulkar shared valuable partnerships with Dravid, MS Dhoni (56) and Yuvraj Singh (56), and outscored all of them. He contributed 54 in an opening stand of 95 and ran hard during the 110-run partnership with Dhoni.
When he eventually departed in the 46th over, after a 133-ball innings laced with 10 hits to the rope and one over it, Tendulkar had out scored Yuvraj too in a 71-run stand for the third wicket. The score was 276 then and Yuvraj made sure they crossed 300 with some lusty hitting, picking 42 runs from the last four overs to put the score well beyond Lanka's reach. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org