Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell game in domestic cricket ended in a manner befitting his iconic stature, as the retiring legend singlehandedly guided Mumbai to a four-wicket win over Haryana in one of the most keenly followed match in the history of Ranji Trophy, in Lahli on Wednesday.
Requiring 39 more runs to win with four wickets in hand on the fourth and final day, Tendulkar went on to make a calculated 175-ball unbeaten 79, building his innings in the manner that has been the hallmark of his later years.
The stay in the middle also ensured Tendulkar warmed up for next month’s Test series against the West Indies, which will culminate with the second and his landmark 200th Test in Mumbai, where he will bring the curtain down on his glorious 24-year tryst with international cricket.
After a series of shifts in momentum over the past three days, it was Mumbai who had the last laugh, thanks largely to the relentless perseverance showed by Tendulkar.
Starting the day at 201 for six, Tendulkar, overnight on 55, guided Dhawal Kulkarni (16 not out) to the last run that came when the young pacer hit Mohit Sharma for a boundary, much to the delight of his Mumbai teammates who had planned to gift the veteran a win in his last game for the state side.
The hordes of home spectators who had trooped into the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium, didn’t mind either as it was Tendulkar who was at the forefront of this successful chase.
Living their own Tendulkar moment, the heads totting the small stands fervently cheered his every run, and got an adrenaline rush the only time the ball reached the fence on Wednesday from the master’s willow.
The standing ovation as he walked out to bat was followed by another round of guard of honour, with some of the Haryana players even saluting the champion batsman while he walked on to bat for one last time in domestic cricket.
The routine being repeated after the match seemed appropriate. Tendulkar being lifted on the shoulder of his teammates was also to be expected.
Though he hit just one boundary today, it was worth it.
As Harshal Patel ran in, Tendulkar positioned himself perfectly before punching the fast bowler through backward point. All in all he struck six boundaries in the innings.
The innings was in stark contrast to the one he played against the same side some 22 years ago, in the final of the Ranji Trophy at the Wankhede Stadium where he smashed Kapil Dev and co to all corners of the ground.
Today’s knock was more about grafting. The defence was tight, the big stride forward gave the picture of a man in total control of the situation, and then there were the trademark backfoot punches through cover off fast bowlers.
He also scored quite a few runs through tucks to the square leg region, nudges towards midwicket besides sprinting singles to mid-on and mid-off.