On Tuesday, the third day of the Melbourne Test, Sachin Tendulkar resembled a king deserted by his established warriors. However, the little genius found a gritty solider in Anil Kumble and India had the consolation of having avoided the follow-on. In reply to Australia's total of 405, India finished the day at 235 for nine.
Tendulkar's 22nd Test century underlined the man's high degree of passion for the game and commitment to his team's cause. Today, he saved the face of Indian cricket in a fashion that only he could exhibit. Coming in at 11 for two, Tendulkar was the ninth man out at 212. Facing 191 balls he hit nine fours and a six in his fabulous knock of 116. If India still entertained some hopes of forcing an honourable draw, it was mainly due to the superior craft displayed by Tendulkar on this day.
India's weakness in the opening slots was once again exposed. Both Sadagopan Ramesh and VVS Laxman were back in the pavilion with the score at 11. Then Rahul Dravid left his skipper after having added 20 runs. Sourav Ganguly enlivened India's hopes during his 77-run stand with Tendulkar. Debutante Hrishikesh Kanitkar was with the little master for 30 runs. So it was 138 for five. Then MSK Prasad added 29 runs with Tendulkar. At 167 for 5, Australia's debutante paceman Brett Lee dealt two successive blows by removing Prasad and Ajit Agarkar off the first and second balls of the 59th over and off the last ball sent back Javagal Srinath too.
Kumble provided the needed support to Tendulkar whose main aim was to help his team avert the follow-on. Tendulkar raced to his century without much ado thanks mainly to a cool and composed partner in Kumble. After having added 43 valuable runs with Kumble, Tendulkar left the scene. His hook shot off Damien Fleming landed in the safe hands of Justin Langer. He returned to a standing ovation. Brett Lee was the home team's hero of the day.
Lee began his Test career by taking a wicket off the fourth ball (Ramesh) and then got the prize wicket of Dravid. Then those three wickets in one over helped him make it a dream debut. Earlier in the morning, he added 59 runs for the ninth wicket with Damien Fleming (31 not out). Lee's contribution was 27. In the final analysis, this stand might enjoy a special status.