The spectators would not take their eyes off him. Or, rather, they could not.
This was not the master at work, nor the artist. He was playing a familiar role of building and guiding the innings, conducting impromptu coaching sessions, enjoying the focus of being in the thick of action.
A generation has grown watching Sachin Tendulkar perform this role.
Once Haryana, resuming at 224 for nine, set Mumbai a target of 240 runs, it was again one man’s relentless pursuit to deliver. And deliver he did, giving Mumbai hopes of winning this Ranji Trophy match on the final day.
Mumbai needs a further 39 runs with four wickets in hand. The home team’s ploy to extend the match into the final day exploiting the early conditions worked well.
“The moisture should help us but we need a discipline line and length,” said seamer Mohit Sharma, who stood out with his hard work this day.
Mumbai banked on Wasim Jaffer to give solidity but the opener failed the second time. It was left to Kaustubh Pawar and Ajinkya Rahane to steady the Mumbai innings.
They raised 86 runs for the second wicket before Haryana hit back and maintained the pressure, forcing Tendulkar to shield his partners.
The opposition had its plans. So did the master.
There was a refreshing touch of application from Tendulkar. The elbow guard was back, the bat had its bottom taped, the middle stump guard and the perceptible change in stance, bat not grounded, were indications of his resolve. He had read the pitch, Mumbai’s batting form and made precise adjustments to the conditions and challenges.
He had to shoulder the chase and play the role of a finisher. He was hanging in there with a half century that should do a world of good for his preparation for his farewell Tests against the West Indies.
Haryana skipper Ajay Jadeja led brilliantly, keeping the pressure, attacking the batsmen with stifling field placements. The bowlers responded well: Mohit, especially, with a 12-over third spell that kept the intensity of the battle in a fierce mode.
It was exceptionally competitive as Tendulkar chose his areas to score runs from. His partners failed even as he strove to keep the contest alive.
Haryana — 1st innings: 134.
Mumbai — 1st innings: 136.
Haryana — 2nd innings: Nitin Saini c Tare b Zaheer 9, Rahul Dewan c Tare b Dabholkar 44 , Sunny Singh b Kulkarni 63, Abhimanyu Khod c Dabholkar b Zaheer 8, Jayant Yadav b Dabholkar 45, Sachin Rana lbw b Dabholkar 19, Ajay Jadeja c Rahane b Zaheer 0, Joginder Sharma c Tare b Zaheer 2, Harshal Patel c & b Kulkarni 33, Mohit Sharma c Pawar b Dabholkar 0, Ashish Hooda (not out) 5, Extras (lb-4, nb-7, w-2) 13; Total (in 70.2 overs) 241.
Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-97, 3-113, 4-153, 5-186, 6-199, 7-201, 8-203, 9-206.
Mumbai bowling: Zaheer Khan 20-2-62-4, Dhawal Kulkarni 13.2-2-46-2, Javed Khan 10-1-45-0, Abhishek Nayar 10-3-26-0, Kaustubh Pawar 2-1-4-0, Vishal Dabholkar 15-1-54-4.
Mumbai — 2nd innings: Wasim Jaffer c Saini b Patel 1, Kaustubh Pawar c Saini b Mohit 47, Ajinkya Rahane b Yadav 40, Sachin Tendulkar (batting) 55, Abhishek Nayar b Hooda 24, Aditya Tare run out 3, Hiken Shah c Jadeja b Mohit 8, Dhawal Kulkarni (batting) 6, Extras (b-4, lb-12, nb-1) 17; Total (for six wkts in 75 overs) 201.
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-87, 3-109, 4-160, 5-167, 6-190.
Haryana bowling: Mohit Sharma 21-3-65-2, Harshal Patel 14-5-33-1, Ashish Hooda 11-4-24-1, Joginder Sharma 9-4-10-0, Sachin Rana 4-0-16-0, Jayant Yadav 16-3-37-1.