Mumbai - Sachin Tendulkar is only 33 runs away from scoring a much-awaited 100th international century as India reached 281-3 on Thursday at stumps on the third day of the third and final Test against West Indies.
An expectant crowd of about 20 000 turned up at Wankhede Stadium to watch Tendulkar bat and reach 67 not out after two days of low attendances as the West Indies totaled 590 in their first innings.
VVS Laxman was unbeaten on 32 at the close but India's innings was led by Rahul Dravid, who became the second batsman ever to score 13 000 Test runs during his knock of 82.
Tendulkar, who went past 15 000 Test runs in the first match of the series in New Delhi, struck five fours and a six over third-man from the bowling of Fidel Edwards in facing 133 balls.
But "The Little Master" was lucky to survive on 58 when wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh dropped a difficult chance off leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.
Tendulkar, who has 51 centuries in Tests and 48 in one-day internationals, has been stuck on 99 centuries since the World Cup in March this year. He came closest to another hundred at The Oval Test against England in May, scoring 91.
Tendulkar settled in well with the confident Dravid, who struck a cover-driven four off pace bowler Darren Sammy to move past the 13 000-run milestone. He looked good for a century until he was bowled by spinner Marlon Samuels while shaping for a cut shot.
Dravid, who retired from ODIs earlier this year, struck 11 fours in 149 deliveries to continue a fine run that has included five Test centuries this year.
He also scored more than 1 000 Test runs in the calendar year during his attractive knock, in which he cut and drove with aplomb.
Dravid built on some good work by openers Gautam Gambhir (55) and Virender Sehwag (37), who both fell when looking in good touch on a perfect batting pitch.
Gambhir scored his 18th Test half-century and looked set to build further on a 71-run second-wicket stand with Dravid when he went for a pull off pace bowler Ravi Rampaul and edged the ball to Baugh. Gambhir struck eight fours off 99 deliveries.
Sehwag was bowled by Sammy with a ball that cut in sharply after he had struck three fours and a six off 50 balls.
Earlier, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin finished with 5-156 as the West Indies were bowled out within four overs of the morning session after having resumed their first innings on 575-9.
Ashwin finished with a second five-wicket haul in only his third Test to end the brief resistance from West Indies' last pair of Edwards and Devendra Bishoo.
Edwards remained not out on 11, while Bishoo was bowled for 12 by Ashwin from around the wicket.
India lead 2-0 after winning the opening two Tests comfortably.