Top ten tons: Sachin Tendulkar
Mirpur, March 16: Since the very beginning, every run scored off Sachin Tendulkar’s bat has evoked a cheer. And whenever the legend has got to a hundred, cricket fans across the world have erupted with joy. Yet, of the hundred centuries that Sachin has scored in international cricket, some have held more meaning than others depending on the match situation, Tendulkar’s batting style, his innovativeness and the quality of opponent.
With that perspective in mind, here are some of Tendulkar’s finest centuries in both Tests and ODIs.
114 v Australia – 5th Test, Perth, February 3, 1992
India were already 3-0 down entering the fifth and final Test against Australia. The WACA wicket, with its sharp bounce, was ideally suited to the Australian quicks - Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes, Paul Reiffel and Mike Whitney. Following Australia’s first innings score of 346, India were 69 for two, threatening to crash to yet another disappointing batting performance. But Tendulkar, just 18 years and 285 days old then, unleashed a savage counter-offensive on the Australian pacers. Where India’s next highest score was from their No. 10 wicketkeeper-batsman (Kiran More, 43), Tendulkar alone scored 114 of the side’s total of 272. The eminent cricket journalist John Woodcock, who witnessed the innings at the ground, said to those seated beside him immediately after Tendulkar’s dismissal, “He is the best batsman I have seen in my life, and unlike most of you, I have seen Bradman.”
155* v Australia - 1st Test, Chennai, March 9, 1998
Having fallen to Shane Warne early in the first innings, Tendulkar was keen to make amends. Moreover, having surrendered a 71-run first innings lead to Australia, India were looking to someone to play a big, blustery innings that would put the Australians under pressure while batting last. Tendulkar, walking in with India’s second innings score at a 115 for two, accepted both challenges head on. He repeatedly bludgeoned Warne, bowling round-the-wicket and into the rough, between long-on and mid-wicket, to help himself to an unbeaten 155 off 191 deliveries. Thanks to Tendulkar’s breathtaking assault (14x4, 4x6), India declared at 418 for four and Australia, unable to weather the challenge of batting on a fifth day Chennai wicket, crashed to a 179-run loss.
143 v Australia – ODI, Sharjah, April 22, 1998
Although chasing 284 for victory, India needed 254 to qualify ahead of New Zealand for the final. After a dust storm accounted for four overs, these were revised to 276 and 237. However, following the resumption of play, Tendulkar played such a blinder of an innings that it appeared he was spearheading India’s quest for an outright win. His 143 came off just 131 balls and included nine fours and five sixes. India eventually failed to get past the victory target but Tendulkar’s innings ensured that the team had booked a place in the final.
134 v Australia – ODI, Sharjah, April 24, 1998
Two days after, India did one better owing to another Tendulkar special. Set to chase a score of 273, Tendulkar smashed his way to 134, hitting twelve fours and three sixes, handing India a comfortable six-wicket win. The occasion was made all the more special by fact that it was Tendulkar’s 25th birthday - the many fans at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium were part of one great celebration. A recurrent memory from both these games - commentator Tony Greig’s voice reaching a delirious crescendo at the end of every Tendulkar six, “Oh this is high, what a six! What a six! Way down the ground! It’s on the roof.”
136 v Pakistan – 1st Test, Chennai, January 31, 1999
India, batting last on a crumbling Chennai wicket, need 271 to win in the fourth innings. That target appeared even more daunting as India lost five wickets with just 82 runs on the board. But Tendulkar hadn’t thrown in the towel yet. His concentration appeared to hit a new high as he offered stubborn resistance to the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi. Slowly and steadily, batting along with Nayan Mongia, Tendulkar took the Indian score forward. He occupied the crease for an astonishing 405 minutes (6 hours and 45 minutes) while also battling severe back spasms. His innings of 136, coming at a rather patient strike-rate of 49.81, took India to within 17 runs of victory with four wickets in hand. Yet, all that effort went waste as the last three Indian wickets could not take India home after Tendulkar’s dismissal with the score at 254. Nevertheless, the aura of that innings remains undimmed even by the agony of India’s defeat.
155 v South Africa – 1st Test, Bloemfontein, November 03, 2001
It was the first day of the Test series and at 68 for four, India had surrendered the initial advantage to the hosts within the first 90 minutes of play. With South Africa pounding in the short stuff, Tendulkar decided to improvise. Not only did he pull with great authority, he also deftly upper-cut the South African pacers over the hapless slip cordon to blunt their short-pitched tactics. Batting at a strike-rate of 84.23, his 155 came off 184 balls. While the innings didn’t save India the ignominy of a nine-wicket defeat, it brought out Tendulkar’s prowess against short-pitched deliveries.
241* v Australia – 4th Test, Sydney, January 3, 2004
Tendulkar was going through a miserable run of form in a country that was accustomed to seeing him at his best. 82 runs from five innings in the previous three Test matches pointed towards a serious dip in form for India’s batting legend. Yet, having analysed his dismissals earlier in the series, Tendulkar abstained from offering a shot to anything pitched up, on or outside the off stump. The result – an innings of 241 not out, played over a period of 10 hours and 13 minutes, during which Tendulkar refused to be lured into playing the cover-drive. Really, it was the one time when the king shackled himself into playing like a commoner but the innings was as exquisite as any of his flashier ones.
103* v England – 1st Test, Chennai, December 15, 2008
India were chasing 387 in their fourth innings to pull off a record run chase. A Virender Sehwag special (83 off just 68 balls) left India chasing an achievable 256 runs on the final day. But with a history of poor fifth day performances behind them, India still needed a steady head to guide them through to victory. Tendulkar came good with an innings of remarkable poise, where he hardly played a shot wrong, to see India past the finish line. His unbeaten knock of 103 also helped silence critics who posited that he was not a fourth innings player.
175 v Australia – ODI, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009
Batting first, Australia had put up a mammoth total of 350. With that kind of score, the result was a foregone conclusion for most spectators. Yet Tendulkar took the attack to the Australians, blitzing his way to a score of 175 at a most impressive strike-rate of 124.11. The Australians, for the umpteenth time, looked an unfortunate bunch as Tendulkar regularly carved their bowlers to all corners of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. But with India needing 19 to win off 18 balls, Tendulkar’s gallant innings came to an end and India found itself bowled out four runs short of what would have been a stunning victory.
200* v South Africa – ODI, Gwalior, February 24, 2010
Perhaps there have been better innings in Tests and ODIs that deserve a place on this list. But for the sheer scale of individual achievement, this knock ranks right up there. In an innings where he played 147 balls (strike-rate 136.05), 100 runs came in fours alone. Another eighteen came in sixes. Along the way, Tendulkar went past his personal best score of 186 in ODIs and when he steered Charl Langeveldt for a single behind point, he brought up the first double-hundred by a batsman in 39 years of ODI cricket. In the end, his 200 not out was almost half of India’s score of 401.
Note: In case of Tests, the date mentioned is the actual date on which Tendulkar scored his century.