It was the sight of the suddenly rejoicing Australians that made the crowd realise that Sachin Tendulkar wasnít merely beaten but bowled too. Nathan Lyonís all-important ball of the morning had lazily looped, slightly dipped and squeezed between Tendulkarís bat and pad to clip the leg stump, sending the bail in a gingerly tumble. When a pacer shatters the stumps to dismiss a home favourite, it comes as a bolt from the blue for the crowd. Lyon broke the bad news to Chennai with a polite prologue and a whisper.
After the short surround-sound groan had risen and died, they all stood to clap Tendulkarís walk to the dressing room. Itís was 10.20 am and the Tendulkar show had lasted just 50 minutes on Sunday. He added 10 to his overnight score and didnít reach the anticipated 100.
But he played his part in the riveting first hour of play. Cricket canít always be about celebrating hundreds, sometimes an intense bat and ball contest can be equally exhilarating. Those 50 minutes saw just 10 singles and one four. But it was the 53 dots balls that contained all the action. Runs were not part of the rich narrative that was co-written by the persistent James Pattinson and the patient Tendulkar.
Bowling extremely quick and getting reverse swing, Pattinson tested Tendulkar with his ever-changing lengths. Broadly they were of three kinds: very short, short of good length and full. A typical start to Pattinsonís over would pitch on off, take off and follow Tendulkarís swaying torso. Lesser batsmen would get stuck in the crease because of the welcome and not move their feet to the following just-short-of-length ball. But Tendulkar negotiated it well by drawing out his left foot and defending it. And when Pattinson bowled the away going full ball, inviting the batsman to play a big drive, the 39-year-old would avoid the temptation. Experts said that the one trick that the otherwise impressive Pattinson missed was the away-going reverse swing, something with which James Anderson enjoyed a lot of success against Tendulkar.
This high degree of restraint and batsmanship denied Pattinson a wicket in his dream first spell of 5-2-6-0. Those in the dressing room would have thanked Tendulkar for shielding them from the fresh and charging Pattinson. The first 50 minutes of slow progress had a big role to play in Indiaís charge at the start of the second session.
Sandeep is the National Sports Editor