Sachin Tendulkar missed out on an unprecedented 100th international century before India raced to a comfortable five-wicket win over the West Indies in the opening Test yesterday.
The “Little Master” scored a solid 76 and Venkatsai Laxman made a stylish 58 not out as India achieved a 276-run victory target on a low, slow pitch on the penultimate day for a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Laxman finished the match 32 minutes after the lunch break when he turned part-timer Kraigg Brathwaite to square-leg for a single.
India also redeemed some of their Test image after a horror tour of England, where they were beaten 4-0 in the four-Test series and also lost their No. 1 ranking.
Yuvraj Singh (18) fell when India needed just one run to win, bowled off seamer Darren Sammy’s delivery that kept a bit low.
Tendulkar was dismissed against the run of play, trapped leg before wicket by leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo while attempting to pull in the second hour of the morning session.
“We conceded a big [95-run] lead and we all felt we did not bat the way we should have in the first innings, and we said we will have to make it up,” India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. “It was not an easy wicket to score and you had to be aware of the ball that kept low. Pragyan Ojha bowled well in the first innings, and Ravichandran Ashwin has got a few variations and was supported by the other bowlers.”
Debutant off-spinner Ashwin was named man of the match for taking nine wickets in the Test, while left-arm spinner Ojha took seven wickets.
Tendulkar, who became the first batsman to complete 15,000 Test runs on Tuesday, put India on course for victory when he added 67 runs for the third wicket with Rahul Dravid (31) and 71 for the next with Laxman.
Laxman and Tendulkar were quick to punish loose deliveries, scoring runs comfortably against both pace and spin. Laxman executed some handsome wristy shots during his 105-ball knock, containing six fours.
Tendulkar, who added 43 runs to his overnight score of 33, cracked 10 fours in his 148-ball knock.
He already holds four batting records — the most runs in Test and one-day international cricket and the highest number of centuries in Tests and one-day internationals.
The West Indies’ hopes of putting pressure on India rested on taking early wickets, but they grabbed just one in the opening hour when paceman Fidel Edwards bowled Dravid with a delivery that jagged back in on the batsman.
Dravid added just one run to his overnight score of 30.
“When you play against a top team you want to create the opportunity to win. We did that in the first innings, but did not bat well in the second,” West Indies captain Sammy said.
“The pitch played much better on the third and fourth days. We want improvement, and we have to look to create opportunities and hopefully cash in on them. We believe we can win matches here,” he added.
India added 124 runs to their overnight total of 152-2 for the loss of three wickets.
Tendulkar started his innings confidently, turning Sammy to fine-leg for a four in the opening over of the day, and then cover-driving and cutting the same bowler for two boundaries in an over.
He soon reached his 62nd Test half-century with a single to third-man off Edwards and continued to play attractive shots.
Laxman flicked the first ball he faced from Edwards for four and then greeted Bishoo, who replaced Sammy, with a boundary through mid-wicket.