Patient Sachin Tendulkar middles it this time

The ball from Monty Panesar was pitched on middle-and-leg. Sachin Tendulkar had gone forward to a ball of similar line in the first innings at the Wankhede, and tried to work it to midwicket. It had spun past his bat and hit his off stump.

But this one was a little slower, and landed on a pitch that didn't provide half as much turn or bounce. Tendulkar waited on it, saw that it hadn't really turned, and played it away to square leg. The Eden Gardens scoreboard congratulated him for reaching 34,000 international runs.

This was the first ball from Panesar that Tendulkar had scored off on Wednesday. It was the 15th ball he had faced from the left-arm spinner. It was also the first time Tendulkar had turned him into the leg side. During both his dismissals in the previous Test, off the same bowler, Tendulkar had looked to play across the line.

In all, Tendulkar was to face 83 balls from Panesar. He took six singles — four into the leg side — one double, and hit three balls for four — a soft-hands edge past slip, a fine glance when he drifted one too far down leg and a gorgeous drive between cover and extra cover. The other 73 were dot balls. The majority of these, Tendulkar simply patted back down the pitch, of front foot or back.

Panesar was metronomic as always, with perhaps a few more variations in pace and trajectory than usual. Tendulkar played him with utmost respect, and was seldom troubled. This wasn't a vicious turner.

But there was plenty happening at the other end. An hour after lunch, Steven Finn bumped one short. Tendulkar moved across his crease and tucked it off his hip to the fine leg boundary. He let the next one go; Eden Gardens let out a collective ooh as it darted in and missed off stump. The next one moved away. Tendulkar let it go again.

He prodded at the next one; it left him and zipped past his outside edge. The next ball, the fifth of Finn's over, Tendulkar punched down the ground off the back foot. It trickled over the long on rope. One more ball remained. Finn got it to jag away and beat Tendulkar once more.

By accident or design, Gautam Gambhir had shielded Tendulkar from James Anderson throughout his second spell of four overs. When he came back, he immediately tested Tendulkar with reverse swing both ways. But in the fifth over of his spell, Tendulkar steered successive deliveries behind square on the off side for fours. Alastair Cook took Anderson off the attack.

At the other end, Tendulkar paddled Graeme Swann twice, once for two and once for four, and went to tea on 46.

First ball after tea, Finn drifted onto his legs. With a turn of wrist and a swivel of his hips, Tendulkar sent it hurtling down to fine leg. There was a strange edginess to Eden's roar when the ball crossed the ropes. Tendulkar raised his bat to the crowd, twice, and lingered over that familiar glance into the clouds. He had gone 10 innings without getting to 50, without even getting to 30.

And here, he had had to fight past a difficult initial phase. He had scored 28 off his first 82 balls. His next 72 balls, however, brought him 48, as something like the old fluency flowed through his strokes.

First Day in Numbers

8is the number of times james Anderson has dismissed Tendulkar in 13 Tests. He moves level on top with Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan (eight in 19 Tests) on the list of bowlers who have dismissed Sachin Tendulkar most often.

Tendulkar scored just 20 runs off 83 balls from Panesar. The scoring rate (1.44 run per over) is the second-lowest for Tendulkar in an innings against a particular bowler in Tests since 2002 in which minimum 60 balls were faced in innings.

—S Pervez Qaiser

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