On the fourth Day of the first Test against South Africa at Centurion, the Little Master tore away from the rest of the pack to establish himself in a class apart. He had pulled off another mean feat, another century. But this marathon innings marked a sparkling new world record. He had become the first man on the planet and in the history of the game to chalk up a half century of Test tons.
The achievement was all the sweeter considering it came on hostile territory and against arguably the most fiery pace attack in the world. He had come a long way from his maiden Test hundred, which he had also notched up in a foreign land - at Old Trafford, England in 1990 - where he made a breathtaking 119 not out. He has since hit a high of 248* not out against Bangladesh in 2004, and has consistently pummeled out scores in the vicinity of his 56.55 average..
As Sachin Tendulkar approached this monumental milestone, he had inadvertently bound the entire crowd at Centurion into unison. People of all colours and creeds chanted his name together. The South African team was however, determined to put every impediment in his way. They cut out the boundary-scoring areas and Proteas fast men Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel fired in deliveries around the ribs and helmet. But Sachin withstood the aggression and calmly took a single off Steyn to reach his special ton.
It seems that the only dampener to Tendulkar's accomplishment is that it comes in a losing cause. No amount of determination, stability and counterattacking from his willow could compensate for the poor showing by his team-mates. Sachin came in at the fall of Ishant Sharma's wicket with India at 214/3, but in the space of 23 overs and 63 runs, lost Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina. It was not until M S Dhoni arrived after lunch that Tendulkar had found a suitable partner with whom to carry forward the innings. The two showed true class in putting on a 172-run stand for the 7th wicket.
With the captain and Harbhajan Singh back in the shed at the end of Day 4. It was upto Sreesanth and debutant Jaidev Unadkat to put together a partnership with Tendulkar and at least erase the deficit. But the two bowed out meekly to the pace and fire of Morkel and Steyn, leaving the Little Master stranded on 111. The majority of the batsmen had failed to capitalise on a fighting start by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag on the evening of the third day. If they had shown a little of the gumption and fortitude of Sachin or Dhoni, India may have given the Proteas a run for their money.