Tendulkar’s 38th ton puts India ahead

Sydney, January 4:

Sachin Tendulkar’s belligerent 154 not out guided India to a 69-run first innings lead over Australia on Friday and extended his world record for most Test centuries.

Tendulkar was on 69 when India slipped to 345 for seven on the third afternoon of the second Test and he only had the tailenders to help him reach his 38th Test hundred and overhaul Australia’s first innings of 463.

And help him they did.

Harbhajan Singh scored 63 in a 129-run eighth-wicket partnership and India’s last three wickets added 187. Tendulkar belted 11 runs in one over after the seventh wicket fell, in a deliberate move to wrest control from the hosts.

When No 11 Ishant Sharma (23) top-edged an attempted pull shot to give Brett Lee a return catch and a fifth wicket for the innings, India were out for 532. Lee finished with 5-119, while Mitchell Johnson and Brad Hogg had two wickets apiece.

Openers Matt Hayden (5) and Phil Jaques (8) survived the five overs before stumps, moving Australia’s second innings total to 13. With a deficit to make up and rain predicted for the weekend, Australia’s prospects of a world record-equalling 16th consecutive Test win are starting to diminish.

Tendulkar resumed the third morning on nine and found his world-renowned touch while playing the anchor role in an 108-run fourth-wicket partnership with Sourav Ganguly. He drove Brad Hogg for six straight down the ground just two balls before the Australian wrist spinner broke the stand.

Ganguly, on 67 from 78 balls, stepped down the pitch and miscued a drive directly to Mike Hussey at mid-off. The former India captain smashed his bat into the pitch in frustration, having wasted a start in perfect batting conditions.

Lee then took three wickets in quick succession to have India in trouble, trapping Yuvraj Singh (12) lbw just before lunch and having Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2) and Anil Kumble (2) caught behind just after the interval.

Those wickets gave Adam Gilchrist his 400th and 401st Test dismissals, making him only the second wicketkeeper to reach the milestone, and seemingly put Australia in control. But keen to make amends for the 337-run loss in the first test last week, Tendulkar had other ideas and just before tea he brought up his hundred, extending his record to four more centuries than any player in Test history.

He arched his back, raised his helmet and bat up, looked to the sky, then embraced Harbhajan in mid-pitch — all to a standing ovation by the Sydney Cricket Ground crowd.