Mumbai: A cricket-crazy nation waited with bated breath but was left disappointed when iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar once again failed to notch up perhaps his most eagerly-awaited hundred after promising to do it so brilliantly at his home ground -the Wankhede Stadium.
The Indian batting maestro was unbeaten on 67 when play commenced on day four of the third and final Test against the 0West Indies and was looking in supreme touch as he raced along to completing a 100 international centuries in his incandescent career.
But Tendulkar, whose journey with the three-figure knocks had begun on August 9, 1990 at Manchester against England when he became the youngest Indian Test centurion with a match-saving innings of 119 not out, was dismissed six short of his milestone by West Indian pacer Ravi Rampaul.
The bucket hands of visiting team skipper Darren Sammy were waiting with anticipation at second slip and pouched the edge from the Indian ace when he eagerly reached out to drive Rampaul to stun the 15,000-strong crowd which had trooped in to witness history being created.
The day began like a dream as the batting maestro opened his account by manoeuvring the fourth ball to the onside using his wrists for a two. The last ball of the first over by Rampaul was flicked past the square leg for a boundary.
Laxman was dismissed off the first ball he faced today but it had no effect on Tendulkar, unlike yesterday when he slowed down his rate of scoring after Rahul Dravid was castled by part-timer Marlon Samuels.
Tendulkar continued to bat in the fourth gear and a fabulous straight drive, a cover drive and an upper cut for a six followed to raise his score along with the hopes.
Those, who were not fortunate enough to be in the stadium at that time, clung on to every information they could get about Tendulkar`s progress.
"God let Sachin make history today. Let him score a century and create history and make India proud," prayed a senior citizen en route to work, after confirming thrice from a fellow passenger on train that Tendulkar had reached 93.
"Tendulkar is on 93. He needs seven more to complete his century. He should observe a little restraint now even if he has to face 70 balls," he spoke over phone.
But alas! It was not to happen. In 39 minutes, after scoring 27 entertaining runs in just 20 deliveries he faced in the day, Tendulkar made the long, desolate walk back to the pavilion, to break a quite a few hearts, as promised by Sammy after the close of play last evening.
The crowd too was stunned, but soon overcame the shock and the usual `Sachin Sachin` chants were replaced by a never before heard one `We want follow-on`, `We want follow-on`.
Outside the stadium too, the public got back to its usual business.
"It`s (MS) Dhoni who is next. I like watching him bat. He is my favourite along with Virender Sehwag," whispered a man to his friend, summing up the mood.