Having slipped to 103 for six in the fifteenth over, A. B. de Villiers made an unbeaten 114 but South Africa, who lost the first match of the three-game series by single run on Sunday, were dismissed for 248 in the 43rd over.
Is it possible that after 20 years in international cricket, Tendulkar, the darling of Mumbai and scorer of more than 30,000 runs for India, is just getting the hang of the game? Since entering his third decade at the top in November, Tendulkar has a batting average of more than 90 from 13 international matches.
His purple patch includes five Test hundreds in the past nine innings and 96 not out in a one-day match against Sri Lanka. The 36-year-old batsman also made 175 against Australia in early November, ten days before the twentieth anniversary of his India debut, but that is merely the third highest of his one-day hundreds. In 1999 he made 189 not out against New Zealand.
South Africa could have felt confident after four overs yesterday, having dismissed Virender Sehwag for nine. It was the first of two wickets for Wayne Parnell, but the 20-year-old fast bowler’s figures were ruined by Tendulkar, who took 46 off 24 of his balls, to leave him nursing a return of two for 95 in ten overs.
Tendulkar had nine fours in his first fifty, which came off 37 balls, and needed 53 more balls to get to 100, before taking advantage of the tiring bowlers’ waywardness.
He added 194 for the second wicket with Dinesh Karthik, who made 79, and 101 in nine overs with Dhoni, who reached 68 off 35 balls. By hitting two of the last three balls for four, Dhoni took India past 400, the ninth-highest total by any country. South Africa had made 438 batting second to beat Australia four years ago, but once the in-form Amla became the third wicket to fall in the first eight overs, the chase was never on.
Tendulkar, who dedicated his innings to “all the people of India who stood with me for the last 20 years” said that he only felt in with a chance of getting the record when he had reached 175 and realised there were still eight overs left. “I thought I was stroking the ball well,” he said. “The ball was coming nicely on to the bat. Every over a big shot was being played and was being played consistently.”
Tendulkar has 93 hundreds in international cricket and while Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, is only eight behind his 47 Test centuries, the aggregate will surely never be caught. Reaching 100 international hundreds is a realistic goal for Tendulkar, as well as making a first Test triple-hundred — his best, somewhat surprisingly, is only 248 — and winning the World Cup for India next year.
That would not be enough for Sunil Gavaskar, the former India captain. “He should aim for more,” Gavaskar said. “Maybe a Test innings of 450 or an ODI knock of 250. There is a little boy in Tendulkar who wants to keep playing. That spirit keeps him going.”
While Tendulkar has set a benchmark in international cricket, his innings was only the tenth highest in List A cricket. Alistair Brown, the Nottinghamshire and Surrey batsman, leads the way with 268 against Glamorgan at the Oval in 2002 and also made 203 against Hampshire in 1997.