Gwalior: Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman exploited Australia's second-string bowling attack to hit centuries as the Indian batsmen finally found their bearings against the world champions, posting a challenging 283 for five in the second day-night match of the triangular cricket series on Sunday. Led by the two stalwarts, India made sure that the Gwalior crowd, which had postponed their Diwali celebrations by a day in hope of fireworks from the Indian batsmen, was not disappointed. The 31-year-old Tendulkar was at his vintage best as he returned to torment Australia and scored his seventh century against the world champions, the highest ever in One-day cricket by any batsman.
The earlier record stood in name of former West Indies batsman Desmond Haynes who had six tons to his credit. Tendulkar's 100 came off 119 balls and included nine fours and a six while the in- form Laxman scored his 102 off 134 balls with the help of nine fours. Stitching a 191-run partnership for the second wicket, the highest-ever for any wicket at the Roop Singh Stadium, the duo set the stage for a late onslaught which saw India hammer 90 runs in the last ten overs, thanks to cameos by Yuvraj Singh (44 off 33 balls) and Ajit Agarkar (22 off 10 balls).
The run-feast also ensured that the advantage of winning the toss was not wasted as India paced their innings well and for the first time in two years they looked in command of the proceedings against the formidable Aussies. India last won a One-day match against them in 2001 in Indore and were handed humiliating thrashings in one-sided contests in the World Cup six months ago in South Africa. Explosive opener Virender Sehwag was dismissed off the very third ball of the first over by speedster Nathan Bracken when he snicked at a widish delivery and Matthew Hayden did well to take a diving catch to give his team the breakthrough that it needed.
But a surprisingly sluggish show in the field and a bowling attack that lacked the sting helped Indian recover from the early setback. A little tentative at first, Tendulkar opened up soon and hit Nathan Bracken for a couple of fours to gain in confidence. Realising well the importance of making full use of the restrictions in the first 15 overs, Laxman also started to look out for the loose balls to despatch those to the boundary. Speedster Brad Williams had a nightmarish sixth over when he was hit for 12 runs with Laxman hitting two fours and Tendulkar one to be pulled out of the attack immediately.
India raced to 74 for one in the 15 overs and then slowed down things a little to concentrate on consolidating the innings even as the two batsmen reached their half- centuries with some intelligent batting. Once Tendulkar was dismissed, caught by Adam Gilchrist off Bracken for 100, Yuvraj joined in the run-making spree and played a typically aggressive knock as Laxman looked content in playing second fiddle.
Laxman was run out for 102 with Andrew Symonds making a direct hit and Yuvraj too returned to pavilion within a space of eight runs as Indians tried to accelerate their scoring rate. But Yuvraj ensured he heaped more misery on Williams by hammering one six and three fours in one over by the bowler who was touring India for the first time.