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Lords lifted by the grace of Tendulkar

 

Rest of World beat MCC by 6 wkts

It was a pleasant occasion and a worthy cause, which raised threequarters of a million pounds or more, all of it for the Memorial Fund as W G Grace was not there to celebrate his 150th birthday by appropriating the lion's share for himself.

As a game it lacked the cut and thrust of real competition. Batsmen batted without their averages at stake, bowlers bowled and picknickers lunched. A band played at lunchtime, and the Falcons dropped from the sky before the start.

Overall, the agreeable organisation and amiable contest made it very similar to MCC's Bicentennial Match of 1987. That game needed a vendetta to quicken pulses, when the sight of the Indian Dilip Vengsarkar inspired Malcolm Marshall to bowl his hottest. This time it was Sachin Tendulkar who set the game alight with some batting that culminated in his scoring 22 off one over from Aamir Sohail with some clubbing straight-drives.

The Rest of the World began their chase by losing Sanath Jayasuriya to a ball which appeared to land outside his leg stump. The Sri Lankan left-hander, the player of the last World Cup, is even further from form than his colleagues in the touring party who were routed by Glamorgan.

Mike Atherton, enjoying the rare pleasure of commanding a penetrative bowling attack, gave McGrath first chance of using the strong downwind, and followed him with Allan Donald. As soon as he came on, the South African took the wicket of Saeed Anwar when he mistimed a lofted drive, which left the onus on Tendulkar.

Like his compatriots, Tendulkar hit and missed several times early on, but the young champion in him made him apply himself and the drives through cover and midwicket began to flow. Even Donald was made to disappear though midwicket when he strayed anywhere near Tendulkar's legs.

Tendulkar reached his hundred off 93 balls shortly after straight driving Sohail so heartily for two sixes and 22 runs from his over in all. By now, any imperfections had been ironed out, the imperial dominance was purple. Fielders ceased to move as the finest batsman of the moment took McGrath, Donald, Anil Kumble and Brian McMillan to pieces, let alone the change bowlers.

Even stockier and stronger than Tendulkar, Aravinda de Silva joined in the master-class of strokeplay. If Atherton had not known the feeling before, he knew now what is for the captain to have not much control in the field.

The stand between the Indian and Sri Lankan took the game on to a higher plane than anything hitherto, and also left little time for Graeme Hick to display his wares.