Mumbai: The Wankhede Stadium will remain a venue of missed centuries for Sachin Tendulkar, who had a hundred in sight in his farewell and 200th Test, but fell for 74 in the first innings against the West Indies on the second day of the second cricket Test here on Friday.
Fans had filled up the Wankhede early in the day, anticipating a big knock from Tendulkar on his swansong. The master blaster, who was 38 overnight, enthralled the packed stadium with another 36 runs during the first hour of the day.
Tendulkar was in supreme touch and looked determined to get his 52nd Test century, and second at this venue, handpicked by him for his farewell. His first and only Test century at the Wankhede was way back in 1997, a fine 148 against the Sri Lankans in the first innings.
But he failed to break the 15-year-old jinx of not scoring a century at his home ground as he was done in by some extra bounce from spinner Narsingh Deonarine and the thick edge flew quickly to skipper Darren Sammy at first slip with India at 221 for three in the first innings, a lead of 39 runs. Tendulkar hit 12 fours in his 118-ball knock.
An eerie silence descended on the stadium, that was on its toes right from the first ball of the day. But soon the crowd realised that it was time to applaud as Tendulkar started his walk back to the dressing room. It was perhaps the last and the longest walk for the cricketing legend in his fairytale journey.
Tendulkar looked up at the sky once and waved his bat to fans in appreciation. Then he kept his head down and walked up to the dressing room for one last time in batting gear. The giant screen showed images of his mother Rajani and wife Anjali, who were clearly in shock. The expression on their faces said it all. For them, it was tough to expect or accept the soft dismissal.
But for the packed Wankhede Stadium it was money`s worth as the master blaster enthralled the fans even in his last show.
Tendulkar started the day needing just 12 runs to get to a fifty in this landmark Test. He got it with a four off Tino Best and moved on to 52 that also took India to 176 for two in the first innings, still six behind the West Indies 182 all out.
It seemed as if those 12 runs were the most needed runs of his 24-year-old illustrious career. During those 12 runs, Tendulkar panicked for a moment but he was determined.
The two back-to-back fours against spinner Shane Shillingford in the second over had class written all over. Tendulkar was quick on his back-foot and cut the third ball past point for a classy four. The next ball, Tendulkar paddle swept for another four and quickly moved on to 47. The Wankhede went euphoric.
For a moment in the next over, the stadium was stunned into silence as Tendulkar tried to flash oustide the off and missed it, Best thought he had got the prize wicket. The whole West Indies team went up in appeal but it was turned down by Richard Kettleborough to the relief of the fans. The next delivery, Best pitched it short and Tendulkar ducked under it.
In the next over of Shillingford, Tendulkar took a single off the last ball to keep the strike and moved to 48.
It was Best again. Tendulkar was watchful in the first three balls, but got a bit adventurous in the fourth ball when he tried to guide the ball over the keeper but missed it completely. Cameras panned on his wife Anjali, who too was nervous.
But the stadium went up in roar in the next ball as Tendulkar punched it down the line for his ninth four that also brought up his half century. Wild celebrations broke out in the stadium, Tendulkar looked up at the sky and raised his bat in acknowledgement.
With Tendulkar on 64, Best really came close to getting the legend when Tendulkar hit it to short-leg but hit the boot of the fielder.
It was the introduction of Deonarine after drinks that did the trick for the West Indies. The part-time off-spinner struck with his fifth ball for what would remain the most cherished wicket of his career.