Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar came agonizingly close to an unprecedented 100th international ton only to miss it by six runs but R Ashwin notched up his maiden century as India conceded a lead of 108 runs in the third Test against the West Indies which seemed headed for a draw here on Friday.
    
While the packed Wankhede Stadium was stunned into silence after Tendulkar's dismissal, Ashwin's innings of 103 (118 balls; 15x4, 2x6), after his five-for with the ball, lifted India to 482 all out and helped him join an elite club on the fourth day.
    
The hosts hit back strongly when West Indies batted for the second time as left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha claimed the wickets of opener Adrian Barath (3) and Kirk Edwards (17) quickly but the visitors recovered to finish the day on 81 for two, an overall lead of 189 runs.
    
Kraigg Brathwaite (34 not out) was lucky to escape being caught at slip off Ashwin, and first-innings centurion Darren Bravo (27 not out), too, was let off in the last over by Virat Kohli at short leg off Tendulkar.
    
Ojha got the ball to turn and bounce to get rid off Barath, caught while driving, and Edwards was lured out of his crease and stumped.
    
With only a day left, it is difficult to imagine a result unless the visitors suffer a dramatic collapse.     

Earlier, eager to see Tendulkar score the 33 runs required to compile his landmark hundred, and his 52nd in Test, the packed crowd was left disappointed when the batsman edged Ravi Rampaul to Darren Sammy at second slip for 94 (153 balls; 8x4, 2x6).
    
Ashwin, who had grabbed five for 156 in West Indies' huge first-innings total of 590, surprised everyone with his batting abilities during his 180-minute stay at the crease before becoming the last Indian wicket to fall.
    
The 25-year-old's fine all-round show helped him join Vinoo Mankad and and Polly Umrigar. Mankad had scored 184 and took five for 196 against England at the Lord's in 1952, while Umrigar followed his 172 not out with five for 107 against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962.
    
The off-spinner put on 97 runs for the seventh wicket with Kohli (52), who compiled his maiden half century in 111 balls and with the help of with five boundaries, as the duo helped India avoid follow-on after the West Indian pacers removed VVS Laxman, Tendulkar and MS Dhoni.
    
Before Ashwin's arrival, Kohli had added 95 runs for the fifth wicket with Tendulkar, who got out with India 69 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
    
Dhoni fell when the team score was 331.
    
Ashwin advanced to 84 as India lost Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron to be 463 for nine. The off-spinner completed his ton with a steer to third man for a four before being dismissed off the next ball.
    
Thanks to Ashwin's effort, who was 16 short of the three-figure mark and in danger of missing a century in only his third Test when last batsman Ojha joined him, India added 106 runs in the second session.
    
When Kohli was dismissed by Devendra Bishoo whom he drove to Fidel Edwards at mid on, India were trailing by 162 runs.     

But Ashwin batted with purpose and was well supported by Sharma who kept the bowlers at bay for 44 minutes.     

During his knock, Ashwin struck leg-spinner Bishoo for two sixes over long- on, besides playing some delicate glances and drives through the off side.
    
In the morning, Tendulkar looked in imperious form as he drove and cut with authority before Rampaul, who was treated with disdain till then, got the batsman to edge one to slip after batting for 39 minutes.
    
The 38-year-old cricketer was shocked as he made his way back to the dressing room, leaving the West Indians jubilant.

Agencies