Sachin Tendulkar smashed a fearless 98 ruining the morale of Pakistani bowlers on this day. 16 years ago he sent back Pakistan from the World Cup after an intense battle with the likes of Wasim, Waqar, and Shoaib.
It was the 36th match of the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup at Centurion. The sub-continental neighbors India and Pakistan were scheduled to play their last group league match on this day among lots of tension and anticipation.
The Clash Of Arch Rivals
The last India-Pakistan match was played almost three years back and being a World Cup match, the fans were looking forward to this match immensely. Also, India won all three previous encounters in the World Cup and was determined to carry on the trend.
Led by Sourav Ganguly and Waqar Younis both the teams had legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Shoaib Akhtar, and others. It was a legendary clash and both the fans and media hyped the match to the highest degree.
On the morning of March 1, 2003, Waqar won the toss and decided to bat to set a target for India’s strong batting line up. Most likely he had immense faith in his world famous bowling attack to defend any score.
Pakistan Set A Decent Target
Anwar and young Taufeeq Umar started cautiously before raising the tempo. Umar was gone in the 11th over to Zaheer. Abdul Razzaq, sent to number three as pinch-heater, did not last long, neither did Inzamam who was run out once again and did justice to his reputation. Pakistan lost 3 wickets before reaching 100. Yousuf Yuhana (Mohammad Yousuf) built a partnership with Anwar who was playing beautifully. He already passed his half-century and added 73 runs with Yousuf when the experienced Srinath came and took care of Yousuf. Anwar got a well-deserved 100 in the 40th over but any plan of him accelerating was damaged when Nehra came back to peg back his off-stump.
Afridi could not bat longer on his 23rd birthday and loft a very slow one from Dinesh Mongia to be caught by Anil Kumble. Younis khan along with wicketkeeper Rashid Latif tried to add some quick runs but Indian bowlers also maintained their control and managed to restrict them to 273.
The Chase Began
The first two overs of India’s chase was one of the most talked about match situations during an India-Pakistan clash. The fans from both the nations, especially the Indians still can visualize those 12 balls even today.
Wasim Akram started the proceeding and was in control from the first ball. However, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were not in a mood to restrict. The third ball of the over was driven through cover for four by Tendulkar whereas Sehwag fetched another boundary in the last ball. From the other end, it was Shoaib Akhtar on his pomp. He was on top of his form and Waqar trusted him with the new ball and held himself back as first change.
Shoaib looked tensed. He started with a wide. His first three legal deliveries went for four runs and Tendulkar was back on Strike.
The Unstoppable Sachin Tendulkar
The fourth delivery of the over was a wide raising delivery outside the off stump, Tendulkar went for it. It was sweetly timed and the ball flew over the third man boundary for a massive six. It was an iconic shot that changed the mood of two nations in two completely different directions.
But Sachin Tendulkar was not going to contain easily. Shoaib changed his line but his next delivery on the middle stump was flicked by Tendulkar for Boundary through the square leg fence. The last ball of the over, a very similar line, was driven back between the bowler and mid on for another boundary and suddenly India were 27 for no loss in two overs and the target was already below 250.
India continued to chase with enough dominance and reached 50 in the fifth over. But Waqar then gave two back to back blows as he got Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly on back to back deliveries. But Tendulkar got good support from Mohammad Kaif who was surprisingly sent at number four before Rahul Dravid.
Kaif held on one end with a sedate 35 when Tendulkar kept playing his shots. All the Pakistani bowlers faced the same fate that day and looked like he was in an unstoppable mood. But if not by the bowlers, he was stopped by his hamstring. He started having cramps. Although after a few moments of treatment he resumed and hit Razzaq for four in no time.
Kaif finally went with the score at 155 for three. Dravid joined Tendulkar who by that time was severely impacted by the cramps and still kept running by himself as he did not prefer taking a runner. But with the team’s total score of 177 and his personal score of 98, Tendulkar could not take it anymore and Sehwag appeared as his runner. This was the first instance of Sachin Tendulkar taking a runner in international cricket.
But Shoaib was also back as a last-ditch effort from Waqar and delivered a vicious well-directed bouncer. A fit Tendulkar might have evaded. But this time the ball took the shoulder of the bat and a diving catch was taken by Younis Khan in the point to get the little master out. His 98 of 75 balls played against Pakistan on this day is one of the top performances in a World Cup match.
In 1999, India could not win the Chennai test match when Sachin was dismissed post getting troubled by a bad back. This time close to 100 runs more were required. Tension and nervousness were creeping into Indian fans’ minds. But the young confident Yuvraj Singh arrived to rescue.
He started positively and soon with his stroke play the momentum was back to India. Even Dravid was also looking tired after keeping and batting on a hot day. Yuvraj anchored the chase and reached his 50 with only a few runs to get. In the 46th Over, Dravid (44 not out) pulled one from Waqar to the boundary for the winning runs and rejoiced the glory along with Yuvraj and other team members.
The entire nation was celebrating. After not a strong start in the campaign, India turned out to be one of the strongest teams to qualify for the next round. Pakistan had to return home among lots of controversies and retirements.
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