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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 10:24 GMT
India's brightest star shines again
By Oliver Brett

Brett Lee and Sachin Tendulkar
I knew a big innings was around the corner and it was just a matter of hanging in
Sachin Tendulkar

Despite being lauded like a deity by his countrymen, Sachin Tendulkar has always kept his composure remarkably well.

He always respects his opponents and still spends as much time working in the nets as he did when he first broke into the national team as a raw talent in 1989.

That professionalism and dedication allowed him to end a poor run of form in devastating fashion on Saturday.

What was extraordinary about his 220 not out at the SCG, quite apart from it being the most productive in his stellar career, was the patience and self-denial he showed.

Eschewing virtually all attacking shots through the off-side, an area in which he must have identified a weakness, Tendulkar used the trusty on-drive as his principal weapon.

Hardly any of his drives whistled past mid-off or cover, instead they were laced between the bowler and mid-on, or to mid-on's right, and so often he clipped deliveries between square leg and mid-on for four.

It is blissfully ironic that the on-drive, regarded by coaches as the hardest shot to play in cricket, was the staple diet that brought Tendulkar out of his famine.

To say the great man had underperformed in Test cricket during 2003 is a massive understatement.

He compiled just 153 runs in five Tests during the last calendar year at an average of 17.

But after only the third day of 2004 his aggregate has already trumped last year's total by 69.

Tendulkar's world rating had plummeted to an unthinkable 16th and he was even losing admirers to that other colossus of the Indian middle order, Rahul Dravid.

Now that has all changed once again.

VVS Laxman
Watching Steve Waugh play always gave me a lot of pleasure
Laxman dedicated his ton to his parents and Steve Waugh

Firmly back in the hunt to break two long-standing Test batting records, Tendulkar is now just two centuries behind Sunil Gavaskar's record of 34 and 1,190 runs behind Allan Border's record aggregate of 11,174.

But spare a thought for the man who was at the other end for most of Tendulkar's innings.

In most Indian middle orders of the past, VVS Laxman would stand proud.

But his exploits are frequently dwarfed by the show-stopping brilliance of Tendulkar and Dravid.

Australia's bowlers must be sick of the sight of the tall right-hander who now has a staggering record of 1,334 against the Aussies at an average of 66.7.

Of his four centuries against them, none were quite as contemptuous as the 178 against them on Saturday.

Twice he picked up balls from the seamers bowled outside the off-stump to put them away through the leg-side for four.

For the most part, he had provided the most eye-catching shots of the day - picture-postcard cover-drives and some consummate cut shots.

But it was almost as though he began to tire of those when he played the unorthodox alternatives.

Tendulkar and Laxman have played their parts in this fascinating Test match which already looks out of reach for Steve Waugh in his swansong appearance.

They must now leave the stage for their bowlers before preparing for what will be a mouth-watering series in Pakistan.

Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman versus Shoaib, Sami and co... If that particular series needed any further billing, it now has it in spades.

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