Going into the fourth day’s play, India had three things to rely on – the weather, the fact that South African bowlers struggle when pitch is not conducive and Sachin Tendulkar. All three factors worked as Sachin Tendulkar brought up his fiftieth Test century under one of the more difficult circumstances for Indian cricket overseas.
The previous day’s heroics belonged to Jacques Kallis and his first Test double century. But only one other man could beat Kallis in the run scoring and headline grabbing department and that was Tendulkar.
South Africa would have thought they had a cushion enough, having gained a 484 run lead in their first innings after taking India out for 136 in their first innings. Although India were decently placed at 190 for two at stumps on the third day, it seemed an arduous task to overhaul the deficit and then to set South Africa a total to chase and try and win the match.
In fact, South Africa were beginning to fancy their chances of winning the Test early when India were reduced to six down before lunch. But thereafter, the last recognizable batting partnership put out the road blocks that not only flummoxed and frustrated the South African team but also, earned them plenty of laurels in a rather difficult match situation for the no.1 ranked Test team.
Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain, forged an alliance for the sixth wicket that defied the momentum up until that point which was clearly in South Africa’s favour. With the hosting looking for that elusive seventh wicket, India grew in strength and the deficit began to look more miniscule as Tendulkar grew in stature as he and Dhoni began to puncture the field with power, stroke and substance.
Eventually it appeared that Tendulkar had saved this landmark for a memorable moment. It may still not get India a win. But it brought India great deal of respectability when it appeared that ridicule had become the order of the day as South Africa were on top for the first three days and a session on the fourth day.
If one had to understand the impact of the partnership and the colossus of Tendulkar’s stature at the crease, one had only to look at the body language of the South Africans who would have felt that their two faced bowling had yet again caught up with them to combine at the most inopportune time when Sachin Tendulkar decided it was time to unleash Test century no. 50.