Tendulkar misses out milestone, but guides India home with Laxman

New Delhi : Though Sachin Tendulkar fell 24 runs short of his 100th international century, he made sure that India won the first cricket Test against the West Indies to go one up in the three-match series here WedIndia reached the 276-run target for the loss of five wickets, Yuvraj Singh falling when the scores were tied, 32 minutes after the lunch break on the fourth day with V.V.S. Laxman remaining unbeaten on 58. Tendulkar en route to his 76 also crossed 15,000 runs in Test cricket.

It was India’s first win after six Tests, and their first against the West Indies at the Kotla.

India also equalled the second successful run chase at home. Interestingly, the visitors had chased an identical target successfully here in 1987.

The young West Indies team gave an inspired performance and fought till the end, skipper Darren Sammy castling Yuvraj (18) when he was looking to clip the winning run. It was left to Laxman to complete the formality in the next over.

Though the match finished with a day and half to spare, there was enough drama with fortunes fluctuating. The West Indies, riding on a fine 111 by their senior pro Shivnarine Chanderpaul, entertained hopes of a victory when they bowled India out for 209 after scoring 304 in the first innings.

India had gone into the match with a fresh bowling attack. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who was playing a Test after a year, and debutant Ravichandran Aswhin. The two youngsters did not disappoint.

Ojha was the pick of the bowler in the first innings, getting his maiden five-wicket haul (6/72), while Ashwin turned the match India’s way on the third day when he picked up his maiden fifer (six for 47) that restricted the West Indies to 180 in the second innings to leave the hosts a competitive target.

Ashwin, 25-year-old engineering graduate, finished with a match haul of nine for 128, the second best by an Indian debutant after Narendra Hirwani’s 16 for 136 also against the West Indies in 1988. The tall Chennai lad was rightly adjudged the man of the match.

Virender Sehwag, who scored identical 55 in both the innings, gave India’s chase the right impetus.

Resuming at the overnight 152 for two, India had an early setback, losing Rahul Dravid in the fourth over. He was bowled by a superb Fidel Edwards delivery for 31, the ball pitching just outside the offstump to lure the batsman into a firm drive and beat him with the late swing.

Tendulkar and Laxman then scored briskly for their 71-run stand that came up in 100 balls and that more or less settled the issue.

Tendulkar, resuming at overnight 33, took 24 balls to get his fifty and after that every run he scored was wildly cheered by the crowd. Laxman was quick off the blocks and hit five fours as he got to his 30 in just 44 balls.

Tendulkar also stepped on the accelerator once he got to his 62nd Test fifty. He hit Ravi Rampaul for a four, a tuck off the pad, taking India past the 200-run mark, and a ball later he drove the pacer for a classic boundary through extra cover.

The cheering Kotla suddenly plunged into silence as Tendulkar missed connecting a pull as young leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo pitched short and was adjudged leg-before. But by then India were just 43 runs away from a win.

Yuvraj and Laxman then added 42 runs to see the side home.

The second Test starts in Kolkata Nov 14.

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