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Sachin sets ‘second home’ on fire with 30th ton

Leeds: Nasser Hussain’s worst fear — that India would hit back after Lord’s — came true Friday. In fact, so savage was the Sachin Tendulkar-Sourav Ganguly assault, late on the second day, that the Ashley Giles and Andrew Caddicks would have seen stars hours before the first was due over Leeds.

Fifty-five minutes were lost to the elements, at the very start, and the light throughout was never ideal. Yet, Sachin and Sourav gave England a lesson in enlightenment. And, it was harsh — the duo especially exploded when the third new ball was taken (488 for three) and the first ten overs produced as many as 91.

With Sachin hooking with disdain and Sourav stepping out without a care in the world, runs came quicker than they would in a one-day International. Instead of the batsmen, it’s the fielders who seemed to have problems sighting the Duke.

Sourav, of course, fell moments before the umpires decided the light had become unplayable. By then, though, his ninth Test hundred was registered. Sourav’s 128 came in 261 minutes and off 167 deliveries (13x4, 3x6). Moreover, his 249-run blazing association with Sachin rewrote the best for the fourth wicket versus England.

Sachin, unbeaten on 185 (425 minutes, 321 balls, 18x4, 3x6), finally overtook Sir Don Bradman’s 29 hundreds but, typically, insisted his own achievement “only had statistical significance” vis-a-vis Sir Don.

An early declaration — if not an overnight one — is on the cards. Sachin is a mere 15 shy of what will be his third double hundred, but the team’s interest could take precedence.

It was as recently as Wednesday, that the Yorkshire County Cricket Club honoured Sachin by naming a ‘box’ in the multi-million pound designer East Stand after him. Forty-eight hours later, Sachin thanked admirers at his old County with a gem of a hundred.

At Trent Bridge, Sachin fell in the 90s. Headingley, however, has been a different experience. A streaker did try to ‘upstage’ him, moments after the players left for tea, but absolutely nobody is going to talk about that idiot. Rather, in pubs across Yorkshire, fans will be applauding the County’s adopted son.

“This is like a second home,” is how Sachin emotionally connected to Leeds and Headingley the other day. He certainly wasn’t uncomfortable and the packed turnout kept acknowledging the very fine shots. A decade ago, Sachin failed to get a first class hundred on Yorkshire’s home turf. Ten years on, he got a Test hundred.

“I really wanted a hundred at Headingley,” Sachin confessed.

In fact, if the opening day of the third Test was largely dominated by vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Day II was pretty much monopolised by Sachin — till Sourav cut loose. Incidentally, the captain’s first six, off Giles, struck one of the 16,500 spectators. “I hope the gentleman is okay,” Sourav later remarked.

England’s solitary success till the extended last session, was getting Dravid. Beaten in the air and, then, surprised by Giles’ bounce, Dravid found himself stumped by the wily Alec Stewart. By then, he had scored 148 (personal best against England). Dravid was at the wicket for 429 minutes and faced 307 deliveries (23x4).

Dravid and Sachin added exactly 150 for the third wicket, following the 170 between Dravid and Sanjay Bangar Thursday. Sachin and Sourav continued the excellent work.

Obviously, the Indians are aiming to bat just once and, at this point, are exceedingly well-placed to knock England for a six and level the series 1-1. The weather, though, could prove tricky.

Agencies add: Resuming at their overnight score of 236 for two, India gathered 348 runs today in 83.1 overs. As many as 89 of those runs were scored in the last eight overs after the Indian batsmen refused the umpires' offer of bad light.

Sachin was on 145 and Sourav on 80 when light was offered to them. With 6.5 overs still remaining in the day when play was called off, Sachin could have reached the his double hundred but for the dismissal of Sourav.

As V.V.S. Laxman walked in, the umpires offered the light again and the Indians agreed to end the day's proceedings. It was a highly satisfying day for India, which saw many records tumble. It was for the first time that an Indian innings had featured three 150-plus partnerships.

Sachin and Sourav then shared in the best Indian fourth-wicket stand against England, improving upon the 222-run association between Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar at the same ground in 1959.

With nothing going their way, England once again resorted to negative bowling. Andrew Flintoff came round the wicket to both Sourav and Sachin and hurled down short-pitched deliveries way outside the leg-stump to prevent the batsmen from scoring. From the other end, Giles also used the same technique.

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