By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Yet another magnificent knock from Sachin Tendulkar powered India to a series triumph over South Africa, one of the best teams in the business at the moment in every format of the game.
India could not win the two-Test series, managing to square it after losing the first one by the heaviest of margins, but they have come up with better performance in the One-day Internationals closing the three-match series at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior that has remained their happy hunting ground.
Unlike the first ODI in which the South African tail-enders frustrated India against all odds there was no such drama in the second game where the hosts were able to dictate terms until the very end.
There was no guarantee for success for India even after they had posted a total of 401 for three in the allotted 50 overs. They had to come out hard against the South Africans and they did exactly that to prevent anything unusual close to one in the previous game.
In the end 153 runs separated the two sides that looked a fair reflection of the dominance of the home side. With their tidy bowling, the Indians didn’t let the visitors come up with anything extravagant to upstage them.
The limelight was very much on Tendulkar for having set up the monumental triumph but overall it was the team effort that allowed the hosts to remain in the driving seat all along on a day they might not forget for a very long time indeed.
It was one of those days when they were able to bulldoze their fancied rivals in every department of the game. Tendulkar stood out with his magnificent double century but the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Yousuf Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni also made significant contribution with the bat to ensure a massive total.
The trio of Karthik, Pathan and Dhoni kept the score moving at brisk pace to let Tendulkar play his natural game. It could have been a different story to relate if the runs had choked at the other end that would have definitely brought pressure even on the Master Blaster in full cry.
Dhoni’s captaincy, as usual, was spot it. His decision to promote Pathan and opt for the batting powerplay soon after his arrival turned out to be masterstrokes. Then the skipper himself fired on all cylinders in the death overs to let Tendulkar relax a bit in the 190s.
The disappointment of losing Virender Sehwag, who was caught at third man, early in the innings was not allowed to be felt because Karthik built a marathon partnership with Tendulkar and then the stage was set for Pathan and Dhoni to push the score past 400.
India had reasons not to feel complacent even while defending the monumental score because South Africa had successfully chased down 434 against Australia at the Wanderers not very long ago.
The Indians removed the danger man Herschelle Gibbs cheaply and then wickets kept on tumbling at regular internals. AB de Villiers scored a century without threatening to change the complexion of the game.
February 25, 2010
By Syed Khalid Mahmood