Sachin Tendulkar smashed a breath-taking unbeaten 163 to set up India’s thumping 53-run win over New Zealand in the third one-dayer to give visitors an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-match series in Christchurch on Sunday.
Put in to bat by stand-in Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum,a vintage Sachin Tendulkar scored his 43rd century,which is his maiden ton on New Zealand soil,before retiring hurt to guide India to an intimidating 392 for four.
New Zealand made a strong reply with the pair of McCullum (71) and Jesse Ryder (105) stitching a 166-run partnership for the opening wicket before losing way in the middle overs.
The home team were shot out for 334 in the 45.1 overs. They will have to win the remaining two matches on March 11 (Hamilton) and March 14 (Auckland) if they want to square the series.
Some big hitting by Ryder and McCullum alongwith lethargic fielding by the Indians show meant the home side raced to 166 for none in the 22nd over but once the openers made way to the hut the Kiwi middle order collapsed to 218 for seven in the 34th over.
Kyle Mills (54) and Tim Southee made a brief resistance by sharing an 83-run partnership for the ninth wicket before the inevitable happened.
Tendulkar,whose previous best in New Zealand had been an 84 in Dunedin in March 1992,was in his sublime touch hitting 16 fours and five sixes in 133 balls before retiring hurt in the 45th over in the day-nighter.
At one time,it looked like Tendulkar would get past his own best innings of 186 — that too against New Zealand in Hyderabad in November 1999 — and even Pakistani Saeed Anwar’s all time highest score of 193 was not out of danger.
Playing in his 425th match,the master batsman,who hit his last century (117 not out) in Sydney against Australia in March 2008,shared a quickfire 100-ball 138 runs for the third wicket with Yuvraj Singh who made a brilliant 60-ball 87 (10×4; 6×6) to give nightmare to the home team in the crucial match.
With captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni chipping in with a 58-ball 68 and Suresh Raina contributing an 18-ball 38 which included five sixes,Indian posted their second highest ODI total the best being the 413 they made against Bermuda in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.
The visitors,who were 283 for 3 at the end of 40th over,looked like crossing the 400 mark,which would have been their second such feat,but in the end fell short by eight runs.
After taking a single behind square off Grant Elliott in the last ball of the 36th over — and the 101st delivery he faced — for his fifth century against New Zealand,Tendulkar accelerated with some lusty blows and scoring another 63 runs from 32 balls before he decided to end unconquered.
But that was after he had played his second highest innings and third 150 plus innings of his career. The other 150 plus innings was the 152 he made against Namibia at Pietemaritzburg during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
The Kiwis were,however,very much in the game until the 20th over,when India were at 105 for two. But the batting powerplay changed the complexion of the game when Tendulkar and Yuvraj produced 69 sizzling runs between the 23rd and 27th overs. The home team were virtually massacred in those five heady overs.
It was an Indian summer in Christchurch as Tendulkar,Yuvraj,Dhoni and Raina cut loose in the middle overs,smashing fours and sixes with effortless ease,as if they were entertaining corporate honchos in a festival match.
So electrifying and daunting was their combined show that Kiwis floundered in the field under pressure. Their bowling was in absolute tatters,though McCullum employed as many as seven bowlers. They were lost in their own backyard.
It was the Tendulkar of the yore. His enthusiasm and zest belied his age as he ran hard between the wickets,looking to convert ones into twos. The 35-year-old Mumbaikar showed that he still had the appetite for big runs.
If Yuvraj had set the stands on fire with his pyrotechnics in the overs between the 15th and the 30th,Tendulkar measured up to the left-hander’s onslaught as the innings ebbed into the end overs. The Kiwis simply watched in awe as the world’s greatest batsman drove,cut and flicked with disdain.
Perhaps,he could well have cast Saeed Anwar’s record 194 in the Southern Sea. For there were at least 30 balls left in the innings. But running between wickets with folks ten years younger to him,he was left enervated. The crowd rose to its feet to give the master batsman a fitting farewell on what could be his last innings in Christchurch.
Dhoni,given a stumping reprieve by Peter McGlashan off Jeetan Patel when he had made barely five,went hammer and tongs at the listless Kiwi attack,piercing the field with powerful drives and cuts. His 68,his second half century of the tour,came off just 58 balls.
Suresh Raina also piled on New Zealand’s agony,savaging a quick-fire 38 not out.