Colombo: Batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar has praised Virender Sehwag for scoring a 69-ball century against New Zealand, which helped India qualify for the triangular One-day cricket series final.[an error occurred while processing this directive]"Great innings. Keep it up. Do it again in the final," Tendulkar said in a message to Sehwag, whose explosive maiden ton on Thursday powered Indian team into Sunday's final against Sri Lanka with a seven-wicket win."I was really thrilled to receive this message," Sehwag said on Friday. He scored the second fastest century by an Indian in One-dayers, pushing Tendulkar's 71-ball hundred (against Zimbabwe at Sharjah in 1998) to the third spot.The fastest century by an Indian came from former captain Mohammed Azharuddin, who took 62 balls to reach the three-figure mark against New Zealand at Baroda in 1988.Sehwag, who smashed the seventh-fastest hundred in One-dayers, said he was not sure whether he would be able to play such an innings again. "Such knocks cannot be played every time," said the 22-year-old, a middle-order batsman tried as an opener in this tournament in the absence of Tendulkar, who is injured."It was an amazing day. It was just one of those days when the ball struck only the middle of my bat. I never thought I would score a century," said Sehwag, who hit 19 fours and one six."The most important thing is that my knock helped India win the crucial match," he said. "If we had lost, we would have been out of the tournament. Now I am confident we can win the final."India and New Zealand both needed to win their sixth and last league match, having secured four points each after five games. Sehwag was under pressure to deliver, having scored only 97 runs in his nine matches before this tournament at an average of 16.16. His only notable innings was of 58 against Steve Waugh's Australians at Bangalore early this year, which earned him the man-of-the-match award.He found runs hard to come by here also, contributing just 12 in his first two matches as a middle-order batsman and 60 in his next three as an opener before striking in the last league game."I had opened a few times in domestic tournaments, but never in international cricket before," he said. "I had scored a half-century as an opener in a warm-up game on the recent tour of Zimbabwe, but never thought I would open for India. There was pressure on me because I had not done well in my first two matches."He said he was indebted to captain Saurav Ganguly for supporting him when he had been struggling for runs. "He had faith in me. He always backed me. He kept encouraging me during my innings," he said.
Copyright AFP 2001