Chayan Rastogi/Vaibhav Arora
Centurion: Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar added another feather to his cap and created history by becoming the first cricketer to score 50 Test centuries but could not prevent India’s slump to a likely defeat on the fourth day of the opening cricket Test against South Africa here.
Tendulkar (107 not out) played a sublime chanceless innings and shared a 172-run stand for the seventh wicket with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (90) to lead a spirited fightback before the team slumped to 454 for eight when stumps were drawn early due to rain on a historic day at SuperSport Park.
Tendulkar hoisted Paul Harris for a six over long-on to reach into nineties and then drove Dale Steyn to covers to complete his historical feat of completing half century of Test centuries which brought a huge cheer in the ground and zillion of supporters watching world wide.
With an entire final day remaining, India’s chances of saving the match depends on Tendulkar and how the elements play a role in the high-profile series opener. But it appears almost imposible for India to save the game with just two wickets remaining.
Tendulkar and Dhoni, who joined forces when an innings defeat was staring on India at 277 for six just before lunch, were never in discomfort while facing the South African bowlers throughout their innings. They denied any success to the South African bowlers for more than three hours while adding runs at a brisk pace.
But just as it seemed that the duo will comfortably guide India out of danger on day four, Dhoni perished to a rising delivery from Steyn.
The Indian captain was caught in an awkward position and fended it to Boucher, who took a neat catch, diving to his right.
Once the big partnership between Tendulkar and Dhoni was broken, India lost Harbhajan Singh who could score just one run from two balls
just before rain interruption.
Tendulkar, who came in at the fall of nightwatchman Ishant Sharma at 214 for three in the morning session stood rock solid while Dhoni was even more aggressive than his senior partner at one stage.
Dhoni gave Dale Steyn some special treatment by hitting the South African strike bowler for a flurry of fours, that too after the home side had taken the new ball.
South Africa took the new ball after 2.1 overs in the post-lunch session but Tendulkar and Dhoni were undeterred as they punished Morne Morkel with three fours in the same over -- two of them coming from the Indian captain’s blade.
Tendulkar raised his fifty, his 60th in Test cricket, with a cracking four off Steyn, a slap through extra cover. He had faced 94 balls for his fifty.
Dhoni also punished Steyn for a four in the same over and then hit three boundaries off Jacques Kallis as he raced to his 20th Test fifty in quick time, from just 41 balls with the help of nine fours.
The morning session of the fourth day proved to be disastrous for the Indians as they lost 4 wickets while adding just 87 runs. The Indians went in to lunch at 277/6, still trailing the South Africans by 207 runs.
The Indians seemed to be crumbling under the pressure of a massive deficit as they lost half of their team with just 256 runs on the board, still trailing the Proteas 228.
Laxman was the fifth batsman to take the long walk back to the pavilion as he departed for 8, giving young Lonwabo Tsotsobe his first wicket of the match.
India suffered a huge blow in the first session as Rahul Dravid, who was looking set for a big score, departed to leave India at 242/4. Dravid made 43.
After scoring a gritty 23, nightwatchman Ishant Sharma finally departed after being brilliantly caught by Hashim Amla at short square leg off Dale Steyn.
India started the fourth day of the first Test against South Africa with a mammoth task on hand to save the match.
The tourists, who ended the third day on 190/2, still need another 294 runs to make the Proteas bat again.
Earlier on Saturday, Virender Sehwag (63) and Gautam Gambhir (80) gave a solid start as India staged a spirited fightback after conceding a mammoth 484-run lead on the third day.
After South Africa declared their first innings at an imposing 620 for four riding on Jacques Kallis` maiden unbeaten double century and A B De Villier`s record-breaking 129, India put up a better batting display to reach 190 for two in their second innings when the stumps were drawn.
Rahul Dravid was batting on 28 from 48 balls while night-watchman Ishant Sharma was giving him company on seven to raise hopes of saving the game on a Super Sport Park pitch that had eased out considerably.