Batting great Sachin Tendulkar hit an unbeaten 103 as India achieved the fourth-highest run chase in history to stun England by six wickets in the first Test yesterday.
The hosts surpassed the seemingly improbable victory target of 387 on a wearing wicket with 20.3 overs to spare on the fifth and final day to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Tendulkar swept off-spinner Graeme Swann to fine-leg for the winning boundary that also brought up his 41st Test century amid loud cheers from 30,000 home fans at the Chidambaram stadium.
Tendulkar, showing the form that has made him the all-time leading scorer in both Tests and one-day cricket, anchored India’s chase for five hours, during which he hit nine boundaries.
“This is a very, very special victory,” the 35-year-old Mumbai resident said. “To score 387 is something to be proud of on a track where the ball was bouncing and jumping at the end.”
“I think it was a very, very important hundred because, I always say that if the team wins, then the hundred becomes very special and today this hundred was very important,” he said. “But cricket is a lesser thing compared to what happened in Mumbai and we are with those who lost their dear ones.”
The first Test match in India since last month’s terror attacks in Mumbai provided a thrilling finale with all four results — victory for either side, a draw or a tie — possible going into the final session.
India required 83 runs from 40 overs and England needed six wickets in the last two hours of play, but Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh survived the second new ball to fashion a remarkable win.
Left-hander Yuvraj chipped in with 85 not out in a fifth-wicket stand of 163 with Tendulkar to dash England’s hopes after Kevin Pietersen’s men dominated a major part of the match with both bat and ball.
Yuvraj, recalled to the Test side following the retirement of former captain Sourav Ganguly, made up for his first innings score of 14 by coming good when his team needed it most.
The top three run chases in history are the 418-7 by the West Indies against Australia in 2003, 406-4 by India against the West Indies in 1976 and 404-3 by Australia against England in 1948.
India’s victory was set up the previous day by flamboyant opener Virender Sehwag, who smashed 83 off 68 balls with 11 fours and four sixes to leave the hosts 131-1 at the close.
When play resumed yesterday, India suffered a blow in the third over when Andrew Flintoff had the struggling Rahul Dravid caught behind by wicket-keeper Matt Prior for four.
Dravid, a veteran of 130 Tests at an average of 52.12, may find the selectors lose patience with him after managing just 32 runs in his past four Tests.
Gautam Gambhir, who shared a century stand with Sehwag, put on 42 for the third wicket with Tendulkar as the Indians attempted to overcome the early loss of Dravid.
The left-hander moved to 66, his eighth Test half-century, when he flirted with a wide ball from James Anderson and gave Paul Collingwood a low catch at gully.
Venkatsai Laxman made 26 in a fourth-wicket stand of 41 with Tendulkar when he dabbed at a ball from off-spinner Swann to Ian Bell at short-leg soon after lunch.
The second Test starts in the northern Indian town of Mohali on Friday.
■N ZEALAND V WEST INDIES
AFP, DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND
The first Test between New Zealand and the West Indies ended in a draw after rain washed out the final day yesterday.