Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane were grinding away to their third 200-plus partnership in the Ranji Trophy this season on Monday. They began where they left off the previous evening the cricket on view effective even if it wasnt pleasing on the eye. Then,an hour into the days play,things suddenly changed.
Rahane had just been dismissed and out walked the man the sparse crowd at the MA Chidambaram stadium had been waiting for. The next three hours revolved around Sachin Tendulkar.
Jaffer may have ended up with a 301 against his name,but from the time Tendulkar arrived at the crease till he walked off retired half-complaining about a headache,but maybe just bored he was the lead act. The rest,including the opposition,were either spectators or supporting acts.
He walked out to the crease full of purpose,and started off by taking the attack to the Saurashtra camp. He hit off-spinner Kamlesh Makhwana,who had removed Rahane for 85,over mid-on for six in true Tendulkar fashion,before clearing the mid-wicket fence a couple of overs later.
Jaffer,meanwhile,continued in his own pristine manner and notched up his third double-century of the season,from which point a triple looked practically inevitable.
Tendulkars last innings on the same ground had brought glory both for him and the country,and the pedestrian Saurashtra bowling proved cannon fodder.
Tendulkar reserved special treatment for Makhwana,smashing him for four of his five sixes,and brought up his 68th first-class century with a drive for four off Sandeep Jobanputra. When he suddenly walked off the field he was rattling along merrily at 122 the game meandered back to its original tempo,and the focus shifted back to Jaffer,who now is the highest run-getter this Ranji season.
Amol Muzumdar,who needed 42 runs to go atop of the all-time run-getters list,edged a Balkrishna Jadeja delivery to keeper Jogiyani,before Jaffer chipped the last ball before tea back to left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruve.
The post-tea session seemed to emphasise Jaffers comments about his teams approach of not looking for an outright win,as Rohit Sharma and Abhishek Nayar,two naturally attacking batsmen,plodded around to stretch the team score beyond 600,before a flurry of late wickets left Mumbai at 637 for six.
Jaffer later said that his team would bat for at least an hour on Day Three,and insisted that they were simply sticking to their original plan.
In hindsight,the show may have lacked the entertainment that was expected from a semi-final,but with Tendulkar playing the kind of innings he did,other irritants faded away without too much of an effort.