Johannesburg 1992: Tendulkar’s 111 - A teenager sets an example for his teammates
At 19, Tendulkar knew how to battle against a moving ball and how to construct monumental knocks outside the subcontinent- a place where inner resolve often gets tested. After Manchester, Sydney and Perth, Tendulkar conquered Johannesburg. The glimpses of brilliance from Tendulkar’s willow spoke volumes about his abundance of talent and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about who would be the fulcrum of India’s batting line-up for the years to come.
The red cherry was being bowled at a searing pace by one of the fastest bowlers in the world, Allan Donald. He was complimented by two bowlers who were bowling a tight line outside the off-stump, Brian McMillan and Craig Matthews. The openers, Ravi Shastri and Ajay Jadeja, were dismissed for seven and 14 respectively. The eleven men from South Africa were a hungry lot waiting for the teenager to buckle under pressure. But this lad was no ordinary one. At 19, playing only his 19th Test match, he was the best bet to steer India’s sinking ship; a man who embodied courage in the face of adversity.
The South African team were on a mission to demolish India. The conditions were in their favour as well. The moving ball, world-class fielding (unlike India) and the quality of pace attack – these were the perfect ingredients for an Indian batting collapse. But the teenage sensation of India was intent on proving a point. He battled hard and challenged the home side to pick up his wicket. The battle between Donald and Tendulkar was like a boxing match. If round one belonged to Donald, the second was Sachin’s. Donald’s modus-operandi was to not offer any width to the youngster at the start of his innings. The length balls tested Tendulkar. Donald astutely unveiled his trump card – a delivery full outside the off-stump bowled to unsettle the unset Tendulkar. And Donald almost succeeded. Tendulkar went for a flashy drive to break his run-drought for 19 balls. The ball went between the third slip and gully.
The next ball was a tad short and Tendulkar flashed hard. The ball went over the slip fielders for another boundary. The bowlers kept coming hard. With the latter batting on 10, Donald bowled a fiery delivery to Tendulkar that took the shoulder of his bat. The third-slip fielder, Matthews, dropped a tough chance. The stern test was getting sterner. McMillan was moving the ball both ways. There were absolutely no easy balls. Tendulkar was waiting for the loose balls which were short and wide deliveries around off-stump. Tendulkar exhibited majestic cuts and square drives off those rare deliveries. When day two ended, Tendulkar was batting on 75.
Tendulkar lost Manjrekar, Azharuddin, Amre and Prabhakar before the day’s play ended. On the morning of day three, Tendulkar was playing second fiddle to Kapil Dev. But Dev’s cameo lasted for only 37 deliveries and when More too departed, Tendulkar took control of the innings, even though he was batting at a snail’s pace.
After lunch, Tendulkar brought up his fourth Test century with a firm push between the bowler, Matthews, and mid-off. It was similar to the off-drive he had hit off Angus Fraser in Manchester to bring about his first century. The admirers rushed on to the field to congratulate the centurion who had decorated his well-compiled knock with 17 boundaries. Tendulkar then celebrated his milestone with a couple of boundaries off Matthews, who had been parsimonious the previous two days.
At 111, Tendulkar played a loose shot off Hansie Cronje. He was caught at mid-on. Tendulkar’s innings gave India’s first innings score an air of respectability.