On Day 3 of the Irani Cup Rest Of India would have thought they had opponents Mumbai under the kosh. Having posted a massive 526 in their first innings, ROI picked up 6 crucial Mumbai wickets with just 257 on the board. Yet, they hadn't got the scalp that mattered most.
Sachin Tendulkar was holding his own for Mumbai and ultimately notched up his 81st first-class century at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Thus, he equalled Sunil Gavaskar's long standing record of most centuries by an Indian in first class cricket. This was his second in the Irani Cup as well. His first came when he was barely 16-years old, against Delhi, and Sachin turned back the years with some punishing shots.
Today's unbeaten 140 was the 18th for his home state Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium where the hosts were bowled-out for 409 in reply to Rest of India's 526 all-out in the first innings.
Indian castaways Harbhajan Singh and S Sreesanth were knocked around the park by the Master-Blaster as they tried every trick in the trade to get rid of him. It took just 139 deliveries for Sachin to post his ton, as Mumbai were led by their proverbial son back into the game.
Coming in at three down, one place below his normal batting order as night watchman Shardul Thakur was sent in ahead of him late yesterday, Tendulkar played some breathtaking shots, especially in the arc between long off and cover, to bring up his new landmark in his 303rd first class game.
He completed the 100 with a single off S Sreesanth who tried to unsettle him with short-pitched balls. Tendulkar took 139 balls and 228 minutes to bring up his hundred, which was enshrined with 12 fours and two sixes -- one each off left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, the second one also bringing his half century.
In the process of his century in Mumbai, Sachin also totalled 25,000 runs in first-class cricket. A staggering achievement, and as commentator Kapil Dev put it 'such figures are impossible to achieve in book cricket as well!'
51 of Sachin's tally of hundreds have come while playing for India, 18 while playing for Mumbai in Ranji, 3 in Duleep Trophy, 2 in Irani Cup, 5 in India's tour games, 1 against a visiting side and 1 for Yorkshire.
Sachin is the 43rd batsman in all first-class cricket to have made at least 81 hundreds. The record for most centuries though, is a whopping 199 by Jack Hobbs!
Tendulkar's maiden first class hundred had also come at the same ground against Gujarat in December, 1988.
In international cricket, the iconic batsman has 100 hundreds, including 49 in ODIs, a format from which he retired before the home series against Pakistan recently.
With the Test series against Australia starting on February 22, Sachin looks to be in prime form. India vs Australia is always special. Who's up for a bumper Test Series!
(With PTI inputs)