Kolkata: Sachin Tendulkar steered India to safety with a robust 176 not out in the third and final cricket Test against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens here on Sunday.
The master batsman was involved in a record 212-run stand for the fifth wicket with Venkatsai Laxman (66 not out) as India reached 299-4 at lunch on the fifth and last day for a lead of 160. Tendulkar, 24 short of his third Test double-century in 103 matches, has so far smashed 26 fours in his 297-ball knock. India's previous best for the fifth wicket against the West Indies was 204 between Sunil Gavaskar and Brijesh Patel at Port-of-Spain in Trinidad in Tendulkar received valuable support from Laxman, who hit six fours in his 16th Test half-century in 42 matches. Their unfinished stand virtually shattered the West Indies' hopes of posting a consolation win. India have already clinched a three-Test series with victories in the first two matches at Bombay and Madras. The West Indies desperately needed an early breakthrough to put pressure on the hosts, but were denied success by Tendulkar and Laxman who batted positively in the extended 150-minute morning session. Tendulkar and Laxman both played attacking cricket to ease the pressure on India, who were just 56 runs ahead when the play resumed. Their aggressive batting helped the hosts add 104 to their overnight total of 195-4. The West Indies' best chance of taking a wicket came in the closing 30 minutes when Tendulkar slashed paceman Jermaine Lawson to point where a diving Chris Gayle failed to hold the ball after having got his hands to it. The batsman was then on 171 in a total of 290. Tendulkar, 114 overnight, was the first to go for shots in order to seize the initiative from the tourists as he drove the fast bowlers firmly and fluently on both sides of the wicket. He did not spare off-spinner Carl Hooper either, pulling and then square-driving for two successive fours. He reached his 150 when he steered fast bowler Cameron Cuffy past lone-slip Hooper for his 23rd boundary. Tendulkar also overshadowed Laxman with his amazing stroke-play, demoralising the West Indian bowlers with his knack of finding gaps and hitting boundaries even off good deliveries. Laxman, who holds an Indian record of scoring 281 at this venue against Steve Waugh's Australians last year, always looked solid during his 201-ball innings as he offered no chance to the rival bowlers and fielders. West Indies skipper Carl Hooper took the second new ball after 81 overs, but failed to break the Tendulkar-Laxman partnership. Laxman completed his half-century in style as he on-drove fast bowler Darren Powell for a four.
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