Sachin Tendulkar’s 98 against Pakistan – a timeless masterclass of audacity

A billion hearts eagerly awaited 1st March 2003. It was a match made in heaven. India-Pakistan was and still is the most fiercely fought rivalry in cricket. Every corner of these two countries is engulfed in cricket fever. Every sweet win and every bitter loss is vividly remembered by the fans. Nothing is forgotten. At Centurion, Sachin Tendulkar played a timeless classic to script a golden chapter in this rivalry.

India’s batting versus Pakistan’s bowling, it was a dream scenario for a cricket connoisseur. The very notion of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar unleashing themselves on Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and the rest of the star-studded Indian lineup excited fans to no limits.

Pakistan captain Waqar Younis won the toss and chose to bat first. Saeed Anwar’s century saw Pakistan posting a final total of 273/7 in 50 overs. The first half was done, now was the time for real action. Sensing the enormity of the occasion, Tendulkar decided to take the strike. Wasim Akram, the swing magician, ran in to bowl the first over. Two dot balls first up – lull before the storm. The third ball was on a good length outside off stump, Tendulkar sprang to his toes and drove it through the off-side cordon – first boundary!

The Rawalpindi Express now arrived in the following over to derail the Indian opening pair. Shoaib Akhtar began poorly; he bowled three wides inside his first three balls. But his fourth ball to Tendulkar became the moment of the World Cup. Akhtar rocketed a 150.9 kmph delivery wide outside off stump, Tendulkar guided it over the offside field with a gentle touch of his bat and the ball disappeared into the crowd. Something special was happening today!

Tendulkar dispatched the next two balls as well to take India’s score to 27/0 in two overs. After a quiet over from Akram, Sehwag took matters in his hand and launched Waqar for a six on the first ball of the fourth over. The flurry of boundaries continued, and India completed 50 in just five overs.

Captain Younis then struck twice in succession and pegged India back. Pakistan squandered a golden chance of gaining the upper hand as Abdul Razzaq dropped Tendulkar at mid-off. After the lucky break, the most complete batsman in the world ensured the constant flow of boundaries which kept India ahead of the asking rate. He brought up his fifty in just 36 balls. Along with Mohammad Kaif, the Master Blaster maintained the tempo of the chase.

Tendulkar was in his 70s when the cramps started frustrating him. After running a quick single in the 28th over, the little master could not bear further pain and called upon a runner. In the same over, Akhtar managed to blast in a snorter which reared up on Tendulkar. Taking the batsman by surprise, the ball ended up in Younis Khan’s palms after kissing the gloves. Tendulkar walked back to a standing ovation after playing a masterclass of 98 from 75 balls. The knock included 12 fours and one memorable six.

India still needed 97 runs from 134 balls. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh then masterminded the chase without conceding any further damage. India cruised to a six-wicket win in the 46th over. The jubilations were greater than any festival; the whole nation celebrated the magnificent triumph. Nation’s biggest hero, Sachin Tendulkar, received the Man of the Match Award for his glorious 98 runs.