Tendulkar eyes ton of tons in group finale
Chennai: Sachin Tendulkar can complete another landmark on Sunday by hitting his 100th international hundred as India tackle West Indies in the World Cup`s final group match.
Both sides have yet to make sure of their quarter-final places, although the qualifying picture from Group B will become a lot clearer after South Africa, who are already through, face hopefuls Bangladesh in Dhaka on Saturday.
As well as the qualification picture, most of the 38,000 fans at the Chidambaram Stadium will be anticipating Tendulkar`s 100th international hundred.
The India star moved to 99 centuries (51 in Tests and 48 in one-day internationals) with a majestic innings of 111 in his side`s previous group match against South Africa.
However, even a `Sachin special` was not enough to prevent a three-wicket defeat by South Africa where India, on a belting batting pitch in Nagpur, contrived to lose their last nine wickets for just 29 runs as they slumped from 267 for one to 296 all out.
"When you hit those big shots, you tend to forget that you are playing for the country and not for the crowd," India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said.
Runs are set to be harder to come by in Chennai, where no batsman managed a fifty on a typically bowler-friendly pitch during England`s nailbiting 18-run win over the West Indies on Thursday.
The good news for India is that West Indies have no equivalent of Proteas` fast bowler Dale Steyn.
But their batsmen, who will be expected to bat far more sensibly in the powerplay after collectively losing their heads against South Africa, will do well not to under-estimate a youthful Windies attack that troubled England.
Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo took three wickets on his one-day international debut while lively seamer Andre Russell almost produced a match-winning all-round performance with four wickets and a dashing 49.
Had the West Indies, who lost their last four wickets for just three runs on Thursday, won both they and India would now be in the quarter-finals.
However, West Indies coach Ottis Gibson was encouraged by much of the England match, saying: "We are starting to show the resilience we are going to need to beat teams like England and India on Sunday and the big boys."
For India, the debate over whether to play off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is reaching a key phase.
Dhoni has been steadfast, his critics would say stubborn, in support of struggling leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.
Ashwin, praised by Dhoni for his mental toughness and stability, has yet to bowl a single over at the World Cup.
But Sunday`s match is taking place on Ashwin`s home ground and there will be those in the Indian camp arguing that it is better to bowl the 24-year-old this weekend than risk playing him `cold` in a quarter-final.