Lahli: Patience has its own rewards. The 8,000-odd gathering at the Bansi Lal Stadium will agree.
On Tuesday evening, when the curtains came down on the third day’s play in the Ranji Trophy match between Haryana and Mumbai here, the spectators returned home after watching a knock they would not forget in a hurry. They would love to narrate this to their family members, friends, those who cared to listen, and even, possibly, their grandchildren.
For the last two days, local cricket fans thronged the ground hoping to remain witness to a vintage innings from Sachin Tendulkar. It finally happened when the master batsman came out to bat for the last time in Ranji Trophy at 1.24 pm. Mumbai, then, were 87 for two, chasing a target of 240.
For the next three-and-a-half hours, Tendulkar not only defied the Haryana bowlers on a difficult track with a perfect unbeaten innings of 55 off 122 deliveries with four boundaries, but also took the defending champions on way to what could be an extremely hard-earned win.
The battle, however, is far from over. Having reached 201 for six, Mumbai are still 39 runs from victory. Given the way the bowlers dominated the pre-lunch periods on the first two days, it’s not going to be an easy task.
But with Tendulkar still around, Mumbai captain Zaheer Khan should be confident of returning home on a triumphant note. There is every possibility the iconic cricketer would end on a high on Wednesday morning.
Watching the maestro has always been a sheer delight and Tuesday was no different, even though the odds were not in his favour. Wickets fell like nine pins on the first two days while Tendulkar himself could manage only five in the first innings. Not many gave Mumbai much of a chance when they began their chase after dismissing Haryana for 241 early in the morning.
Tendulkar walked in, and like all these years, showed the way. Never flamboyant or playing to the galleries, Tendulkar didn’t even seem to care that this was his last domestic inning. He just had one thing on mind — to see the team through.
Had Tendulkar received adequate support from the other end, the match could have been over on Tuesday itself. He played cautiously after opener Kaustubh Pawar (47) and No.3 batsman Ajinkya Rahane (40) batted through lunch and added 86 runs for the second wicket.
In the post-tea session, Tendulkar tried to step up the scoring with a few silky strokes all along the ground but checked himself when Mumbai lost a couple of wickets quickly. Finally, he saw the day through along with Dhawal Kulkarni (six batting).
The crowd was ecstatic when he came out to bat, but Tendulkar remained a cool customer. He started tentatively and did not always look comfortable against pacer Mohit Sharma and spinner Jayant Yadav.
The couple of boundaries he hit early in the innings edging past the wicketkeeper and the slip cordon were also not too convincing. But once he settled down, the Haryana attacked looked downright ordinary.
With Abhishek Nayar (24), Tendulkar added a valuable 51 runs before the former was bowled by Ashish Hooda.
No wonder, there was a roar of approval from the people sitting on the left side of the VIP stand.