Whoever writes Sachin Tendulkar's fairytale script clearly has a few tricks left up his sleeve. Spectators at Eden Gardens, who had cheered Sachin every time he ventured near the ball while fielding, went delirious as he gifted them an unexpected wicket, trapping Shane Shillingford LBW.

The expressions that flitted across Sachin's face spoke volumes. There was hope, anticipation and dawning realisation that he had got his man. And then he broke into a grin of pure, unadulterated delight. It was the face of a man still desperately in love with the game.

Suddenly the years fell away and he was once more the prodigy who would be dragged away from nets only to promptly start playing in the hotel corridor; the genius whose career still had many tantalizing years left to go rather than just 10 days.

Sachin has always been more than a handy bowler. In fact, the Eden had witnessed one of the most memorable heists in ODI history when he stifled South Africa in the last over of the Hero Cup semifinal in 1993, conceding just three runs when they needed six to win. He also chipped in with the ball during India's greatest Test victory. After VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid had put together 376 with India following on, the Little Master ensured their effort wouldn't go waste by triggering an Australian collapse with three quick wickets.

Age and a series of injuries had meant that the sight of Sachin bowling had become rarer and rarer. But with a few minutes left for tea, MS Dhoni tossed the ball to Sachin, who had spent most of the day toggling between deep third-man and mid-on. It may have been intended as a crowd-pleasing gesture, but given Sachin's innate competitiveness, the batsman could hardly afford to relax.

The first ball was a legbreak which Shillingford defended respectfully. The second one, a googly, eluded both Shillingford's wild swing and wicketkeeper Dhoni and ran down for four byes. Sachin smiled wryly, but you could almost hear his brain whirring.

The third ball was another legbreak, and then came the moment of the day. Sachin tossed up a well-flighted ball that dipped and went straight on and would have been too good for far better batsmen than Shillingford. The 40,000-odd fans struck up the familiar chorus of 'Saachinn, Saachinn.' The tea that followed immediately couldn't have tasted any sweeter.

Sachin completed the over after tea with another legbreak-googly combo. In the next over, he had Veerasammy Permaul all at sea with another 'wrong 'un' and a big leg-break. Dhoni took him off after those two overs, but the Little Master had done his job -- and the crowd had got its money's worth. It was a delicious appetiser for the main course that lies ahead today.

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