Tale of two centuries

It wasn't the first time he had thrown his head back in chagrin on Sunday. Nor would it be the last. But Sachin Tendulkar's annoyed reaction after attempting a wild swat and only connecting with thin air off a wide delivery from Gagandeep Singh had an added zest to it. Not just because it was his first ball after tea or that he was 23 away from a crucial century.

It was probably because this was the umpteenth time he'd come within a hair's breadth of throwing away a chance for a big score that had been presented on a platter. And despite having looked scratchy against a lowly Baroda attack, he had done the tough bit to get his eye in.

Following the vehement shake of his head he shadow practised a couple of exaggerated leaves. An inspired Gagandeep, meanwhile, decided to test Tendulkar's patience even more with a series of wide and short deliveries. But the Mumbai maestro had nothing to do with it.

Then in the very next over, he erred once more when Murtuja Vahora presented him with another wide half-volley. This time around, Tendulkar kicked the ground in disgust. Two balls later though he finally connected with a forceful push off the back-foot and managed to pierce the cover field for his first cross-batted boundary of the day. The boundary was followed by a customary nod of acknowledgement.

By now there are probably no batting quirks of Tendulkar that aren't common knowledge. Self-admonition at the crease, however, has never been one of his highlighted idiosyncrasies.

But he seemed to indulge in it incessantly during his 296-minute stay of the quarterfinal. Eventually Tendulkar did reach his 18th Ranji century for Mumbai; one looked almost inevitable when he walked out to bat with his team in trouble at 35/2. In addition he also ensured that Mumbai dominated the first day's play by sharing a 234-run stand with fellow veteran Wasim Jaffer, who remained unbeaten on 137 with the team's first innings score reading 272/3.

... contd.

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