Looking back at Sachin Tendulkar's 51st and last Test hundred
The year was 2011. New Year's Test. India were taking on the formidable South Africans in their own backyard. The Proteas batted first and posted 362 runs on the board in Cape Town. In reply, India were reeling at 28/2, and in walked the master, Sachin Tendulkar. He was into his 22nd year in international cricket, had just scored his 50th hundred in the previous Test, and for the umpteenth time in his career, India were banking on his magic with the willow to rescue them from the precarious situation.
The ‘Little Master’ scored his first boundary off the fourth ball of the 16th over. Dale Steyn drifted onto his pads, and Tendulkar just rolled his wrists with élan and dispatched the ball to the mid-wicket boundary. Morné Morkel was subjected to a similar treatment six overs later, as Tendulkar clipped another ball off his legs past square leg. The next shot showed what a gifted player Tendulkar is. Morkel pitched the ball up, in the hope of getting the ball to tail away, but Tendulkar lunged forward and presented the full face of the bat and sent the cherry past mid-off for a boundary. It was a master at work.
Tendulkar then played a gorgeous drive that went screaming past extra-cover. Paul Harris, the left-arm spinner tossed the ball up, and Tendulkar got to the pitch of the ball and caressed it for a boundary. The fifth ball of the 61st over displayed the belligerent mood of Tendulkar. Lonwabo Tsotsobe pitched one short, and Tendulkar rocked onto the back foot and pulled the ball away with disdain. Tsotsobe bowled another short delivery, and Tendulkar pounced on it, and cut it past point for another boundary.
The fourth ball of the 67th over was again a treat to the eye. It was shots like these that made Tendulkar the darling of the masses. Tsotsobe pitched the ball up, and Tendulkar leaned forward and sent the ball past mid-off with just a gentle push. It had class written all over it.
And finally, in the 5th ball of the 84th over, Tendulkar reached triple figures for the last time in his Test career. Morkel dug the ball in short and Tendulkar went for the pull. The ball took the top edge and flew over the keeper's head for six. The master acknowledged a very appreciative crowd at Cape Town and hugged the non-striker and captain MS Dhoni.
After the hundred, Tendulkar opened up. An uppish drive off Morkel sent the ball racing past point. He then followed it up with his trademark upper cut off Tsotsobe. It was a well directed bouncer from the left-arm seamer, but Tendulkar got under it and guided it for six over third man.
The masterclass from the willow of Tendulkar drew to a close when he was bowled by Morkel for 146. It was a tired shot, and Tendulkar left the arena to a standing ovation. This century was a very significant one. It was his last hundred in Tests, and for close to two years, Tendulkar did not score another Test hundred before he announced his retirement in November 2013. Ironically, he would announce his retirement just before India were to embark on another tour to South Africa in December 2013. But, the 146 from Tendulkar will always be remembered with a sense of fondness for the sheer class that the master exuded on that day.