15th December 2008: The Sachin Tendulkar century that provided solace amidst the gloom
It was a hundred that will rank as one of Tendulkar’s best centuries in the longest format of the game.
Sometimes a cricket match becomes way more important than just winning or losing. Sometimes, the deeds of a player on the cricket field act as a soothing effect and allows a nation to bask in its glory.
On 26th November 2008, the city of Mumbai was rocked by a terrorist attack that left the city reeling. The entire nation was sent into shock, as many people in Mumbai lost their kith and kin. It was in this backdrop that a man named Sachin Tendulkar scored a magical hundred, at the MA Chidambaram stadium on 15th December 2008, to bring back a smile on people’s faces.
Tendulkar has always been the darling of the nation, but his century in Chennai is an extremely special one, not just because it allowed India to record their second-highest successful run chase in Tests, but more so because of the fact that it provided a ‘healing effect’, amidst the chaos that the nation found itself in.
Virender Sehwag’s pyrotechnics sets the stage for Tendulkar
In the first Test in Chennai, England dominated the majority of the Test match and left India with a colossal target of 387 to be chased down. Generally, teams would go for the much safer option of a draw, when confronted with a big target to be chased in the fourth innings, but India had an opener called Virender Sehwag in their midst.
Sehwag ripped apart the England bowling attack and scored a blazing 68 ball 83. It was a Test match, but Sehwag scored his runs at a strike rate of 122.05. In fact, when Sehwag was dismissed, the scorecard read 117/1 after 23 overs. India had scored their runs at a rate of 5.09 runs per over, and a prospect of a win wasn’t out of the equation.
The Tendulkar special
India’s batting God walked in, with the scoreboard reading 141/2. As usual, when the master walked in, there was a sense of anticipation from the partisan crowd in Chennai. Could Tendulkar pull off something special at his favourite MA Chidambaram stadium?
Tendulkar’s first boundary was a shot that underlined his intent. To a ball that was just short of a length from Andrew Flintoff, Tendulkar rocked back onto the backfoot and cut the ball fiercely past gully for a boundary.
When Graeme Swann pitched one on his pads, the ‘Master Blaster’ brought out the paddle shot out of his vast repertoire, and the ball raced away to the boundary. James Anderson then tried to outsmart the master by bowling a fast short delivery at close to 140 kmph, but Tendulkar was up to the task. Tendulkar bent low, kept his eyes on the ball and executed the uppercut to perfection.
The batting Genius got to his fifty with a single to point. At that stage, India were still 126 runs away from victory, and it was important that Tendulkar stayed till the end. When Graeme Swann tossed the ball up, Tendulkar got down on his knees and deposited the ball over mid-wicket for a boundary. India were inching closer to their target, and their batting talisman was leading the way.
Tendulkar got into the nervous nineties with another paddle shot off Monty Panesar. He had built a match-turning partnership with Yuvraj Singh, and the England bowlers were wilting under the pressure. The ‘Little Master’ played the shot of the match when he was batting on 92. Panesar tossed the ball up, Tendulkar got onto the front foot, and threaded the ball between point and cover with supreme precision.
Tendulkar got to his 41st Test hundred with a paddle sweep off Graeme Swann. And with that, not only had the master reached three figures, the Indian side had also overhauled a stiff target with 6 wickets to spare.
The master raised his arms up in joy, and the crowd at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai went berserk.
A gem from the master’s willow
After his hundred, Tendulkar had the following to say.
“I dedicate this century to the people of Mumbai. Cricket cannot lessen whatever happened. I hope this 100 will give some amount of happiness to the people.”
It was a hundred that will rank as one of Tendulkar’s best centuries in the longest format of the game. It was a hundred that was scored on a fifth-day track where the ball was turning and gripping, it was a hundred scored in pursuit of a gargantuan target of 387, and finally, it was a hundred that gave India something to cheer about in challenging and trying times.