Sachin Tendulkar was sensationally bowled with three balls left on the second day of the first Test against Australia yesterday to be denied a crack at his 100th international century.
Test cricket’s greatest run-getter looked poised to go to stumps and make yet another attempt to reach the landmark today before he was bowled by Peter Siddle for 73 in the day’s final over.
India reached the close in a commanding position at 214 for three, trailing Australia’s first innings 333 by 119 runs.
Rahul Dravid, second only to Tendulkar for most Test runs, was unbeaten on 68 after getting a reprieve on 65 when he was bowled by a Siddle no-ball.
Tendulkar, who has been on 99 Test and ODI centuries since scoring 111 against South Africa in the World Cup in March, looked in great touch, but lost his stumps in an inspired final over from the stout-hearted Siddle.
He faced just 98 balls and hit eight fours and a six in a 117-run stand with Dravid for the third wicket.
“Peter showed a bit of character coming back after what happened to get Tendulkar late in the day, he looked pretty good today, so it was a big effort to get him,” Australian vice-captain Brad Haddin said. “It was a big blow for us to get him.”
The “Little Master” played some signature cover drives and an audacious upper cut over the slips for six off Siddle’s first ball after tea.
Australia thought they had finally got rid of Dravid on 65 when he was bowled by Siddle late in the day, only for him to get a reprieve for a no-ball.
Spinner Ravi Ashwin said India would have to start again today after the loss of Tendulkar’s wicket.
“That one wicket at the end means we will have to rebuild all over again before the second new ball, it’s going to be an interesting contest, we have to put our heads down and bat well,” Ashwin said.
There were precious few high points for Australia on a back-breaking day in the field other than the wickets of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
Paceman James Pattinson bowled the adventurous Sehwag in the penultimate over before tea to bring Tendulkar to the crease, greeted by a standing ovation from the 53,000 Melbourne Cricket Ground crowd.
Sehwag was dropped three times on his way to a brisk 67 off 83 balls with seven fours in his 75-run stand with Dravid.
He had his first let-off on 11 when he was dropped by Mike Hussey low in the gully off Pattinson.
Sehwag continued to live dangerously and hit successive fours off spinner Nathan Lyon to reach 51, but attempted a lofted shot next ball that was put down in a difficult diving chance by David Warner at long on.
Seven runs later, Haddin hashed a one-gloved diving effort off Pattinson.
Sehwag, who smashed a one-day record score of 219 off 149 balls against the West Indies in Indore earlier this month, has now scored 8,047 runs in 93 Tests.
Gambhir was surprised by Ben Hilfenhaus’s extra pace and bounce and edged to Haddin for three in the eighth over.
Earlier, the Australia tail added 56 runs for the last four wickets in 97 minutes of batting time.
Haddin only lasted 10 minutes before he snicked Zaheer Khan to Sehwag in the gully for 27, ending a partnership of 72 runs with Siddle.
Siddle’s 99-ball resistance ended with a great delivery from Zaheer.
The India left-armer got one to leave Siddle off the pitch and prise a catch behind for M.S. Dhoni for 41.