|So near and yet so far: Sachin Tendulkar falsl 24 runs short of his century milestone [AFP]
Sachin Tendulkar's sparkling 76 secured India's five-wicket victory in the first Test against West Indies on Wednesday in New Delhi while prolonging his agonising wait for his 100th international century.
Statistically the greatest cricketer with 33,000-plus runs in international cricket, Tendulkar, who passed 15,000 Test runs on Tuesday, looked set for the triple digit mark before leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo trapped him leg before.
The 38-year-old batsman departed after a fluent 148-ball knock, studded with 10 crisp boundaries, but not before laying the foundation for a much-needed win for India, who lost their top Test ranking after a 4-0 whitewash in England.
Vangipurappu Laxman (58 not out) also chipped in with a half-century as India, resuming on 152 for two wickets, chased down the 276-run victory target just after the lunch break with the loss of five wickets.
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was named man of the match for his nine-wicket haul in his debut Test, while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha finished with seven wickets.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was naturally delighted with the performance of the team's relatively inexperienced bowling unit.
"It was not an easy wicket to get the batsmen out. Ojha bowled really well in the first innings and Ashwin in the second innings," he said.
"It was not that Ashwin got a lot out of the wicket. It was his variations that helped him. He was flighting the ball nicely and at the same time he got the carrom-ball and the top-spinner which also worked."
West Indies badly needed a couple of early breakthroughs in the bowler-dominated Test where 32 wickets fell on the first three days and Fidel Edwards made early inroads when he disturbed overnight batsman Rahul Dravid's (31) stumps in the second over of the day.
"We always had hope... we got an early wicket before Laxman came and batted really well with Sachin. They took the game away from us," West Indies captain Darren Sammy said.
West Indies first innings 304
India first innings 209
West Indies second innings 180
India second innings (overnight 152-2)
G Gambhir lbw b Samuels 22
V Sehwag b Sammy 55
R Dravid b F Edwards 31
S Tendulkar lbw b Bishoo 76
VVS. Laxman not out 58
Y Singh b Sammy 18
M S Dhoni not out 0
Total (5 wickets; 80.4 overs) 276
Fall of wickets: 1-51 2-95 3-162 4-233 5-275
Did not bat: R Ashwin, I Sharma, P Ojha, U Yadav.
Tendulkar found the boundary regularly and Sammy and his men were up against the skill and experience of a man whose individual Test aggregate is greater than the whole West Indies team put together.
Tendulkar brought up his 62nd Test fifty before Bishoo sent him back, much to the disappointment of the 5000-odd crowd that had gathered at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in hope of witnessing his 100th international century.
Laxman made sure India scored the 124 runs they needed on the fourth day to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
The wristy right-hander elegantly flicked off his pads whenever the rival bowlers strayed and also drove with confidence.
Laxman took a single off Kraigg Brathwaite to score the winning run.
Ojha and Ashwin claimed 16 of the 20 West Indies wickets that fell in the match and Sammy conceded they would have to find a solution soon.
"(Playing) spin has been a problem for us. Losing 15 wickets for 220-odd runs, last five in the first innings and all in the second...we need to find a way to score against spin bowling," Sammy said.
Kolkata hosts the second Test from November 14, while the third starts on November 22 in Mumbai.