Think of India v Australia clashes and one name most often stands out - Sachin Tendulkar. From Perth to Chennai and Sydney to Bangalore, the master batsman has tamed some mighty Australian bowling attacks and given fans the world over the thrill of high-quality batting.
Tendulkar has thrived against Australian attacks in the past - he has made 3151 runs from 31 Tests against Australia at an average of 60.59 with 11 centuries and 13 fifties - and following his ODI retirement, will be hoping to answer his critics in style. A morale-boosting century in the Irani Cup before the much-awaited Test series against Australia starting February 22 has given Tendulkar good match practice ahead of the big clash.
Ahead of the four-match series, here is a look back at Tendulkar's finest Test innings against Australia.
114, Perth, 1991-92: Acknowledged by the master himself as one of his very best Test efforts. As an 18-year-old, Tendulkar tackled Australia's fast bowlers on a fiery WACA surface with confidence and composure to confirm his arrival on the biggest stage. Having already scored 148 in the Sydney Test, his confidence was high but he tackled the quick men on a tough wicket with a maturity and assurance that his senior team-mates lacked. At 159 for 8 and soon running out of partners, Tendulkar found support in Kiran More. The shots he played straight through the covers off the back foot are still fresh in the memories of cricket lovers and his fans. Though India lost that match, Tendulkar endeared himself to the Australian public with one of the finest knocks in the country ever.
155*, Chennai, 1997-98: Outfoxed by Warne for 4 in the first innings, Tendulkar walked to the crease in the second a man on a mission with Australia owning a lead of 71 and Indi at 115 for 2. His innings began with a series of confident boundaries off Warne, who was called into the attack as soon as Tendulkar arrived and ended with Tendulkar not out on 155 off 191 deliveries. Warne was hit all over the ground in an outstanding display of mastery that took India to 418 for 4. They went on to win by 179 runs.
177, Bangalore, 1997-98: Tendulkar finished the series against the Australia with an imperious 177 off 207 balls at Bangalore, the highest score of India's 424 on a slow pitch. It was a bullish innings that contained 29 fours and three sixes and again highlighted Tendulkar's mastery over Warne. With Mohammad Azharuddin he put on 139, and was at his best on the second morning when he scored 60 off 64 balls. Of the 281 runs added while he was at the crease, Tendulkar scored 177.
116, Melbourne, 1999-2000: Tendulkar once again played a lone hand with his India crumbling under the Brett Lee-inspired Aussie onslaught to score a fine century under immense pressure during the Boxing Day Test. Though it was another hundred in a losing cause, Tendulkar's knock was a masterpiece. The Australian attack comprised of Glenn McGrath, Lee, Damien Fleming and Shane Warne. McGrath was the best fast bowler in the world at the time but the way Tendulkar played him was exceptional - that too as captain under immense pressure. His innings contained nine fours and a six.
241*, Sydney, 2003-04: A remarkable innings from Tendulkar, and one that will be remembered perhaps more for the shots he did not play. Tendulkar had been in wretched form coming into this match; he had failed to score in three previous Tests as a result of edges behind the stumps and loose shots on the off side. Against that backdrop, this innings at the SCG was a superb exhibition of composure and patience. For his first 100-plus runs, Tendulkar shunned the offside and instead played shots to leg. He batted continuously for two days without any mistake and many still see this innings as a turning point in his glittering career.
154*, Sydney, 2007-08: Tendulkar's third Test century at the SCG was another masterclass, highlighted equally by the brilliance of his strokeplay but also his ability to demoralize the opposition. He remained in control throughout, first in the company of fellow centurion VVS Laxman and then with the tail as India took a 69-run lead. He gave no quarter and played some ebullient shots against Lee, especially. The entire SCG rose to applaud a superb innings when Tendulkar reached three figures.
214, Bangalore, 2010-11: At 37 years of age, Tendulkar went on to prove that age was no bar for him to be at his best. He was in superb form in the two-Test series against the Aussies as he scored over over 400 runs. Australia put up 478 and had India at 38 for 2 when Tendulkar walked in. With Murali Vijay, he stabilised the innings and gradually began to dominate the bowling. His 49th Test century extended to 214 as he was more than nine hours at the crease. Later, Australia set India 207 to win and the hosts won the match. This performance did not come in a decider Test match but was one of the best knocks that Tendulkar played against the Australians.
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