A look back at Sachin Tendulkar's ethereal 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup
There are some moments in sport, and moments like these come only when a genius is at work; for these are moments which mesmerize and bewitch you, and these are the moments you can recall vividly even many, many years later.
One such moment took place on the 1st of March 2003, from the willow of a man called Sachin Tendulkar. It was a marquee clash against Pakistan, at the Super Six stage of the World Cup, and India needed to score 274 runs in 50 overs to beat their arch-rivals.
The Pakistani bowling attack consisted of the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi, and India needed to put its best foot forward, on the batting front to overhaul a very challenging total.
Tendulkar on this day totally seemed to be in ‘the zone’. Wasim Akram’s third ball of the innings was punched through cover for four with minimum fuss and the little master was off to a confident start.
It was in the second over of the innings, that Tendulkar’s brilliance shone through, as Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler in the world was smashed to a pulp. In the third ball of the over, Shoaib Akhtar steamed in and bowled a bouncer at over 150Km/hr. Tendulkar slashed at the ball hard, and it flew over backward point for six. This shot has since then been a permanent part of Tendulkar folklore.
Akhtar then tried to compensate by bowling the next ball a little fuller at middle stump, only for the master blaster to move across his stumps and whip it past mid-wicket for a boundary. In the last ball of the over, Tendulkar just punched the ball down the ground, but the timing was so good, that the ball raced to the boundary.
Waqar Younis was welcomed into the attack by a slashed six over the third man by Virender Sehwag, and in the last ball of the over, Tendulkar beautifully rose on his toes and flicked the ball through mid-wicket with the precision of a surgeon.
If there were any doubts over how the Indian batsmen would fare against the deadly pace bowling trio, then they were all put to rest by the ethereal stroke play of Tendulkar.
Pakistan then came back into the match with two quick wickets, that of Sehwag and Ganguly, but there was no stopping Tendulkar. The diminutive master punched Waqar Younis through cover for four, and followed it up with another punch past mid off, off Wasim Akram in the next over.
Tendulkar then brought up his half-century off just 37 balls and had at that point of time, scored more than half of India’s total.
Shahid Afridi, the leg-spinner was then whipped past mid-wicket, and as Tendulkar was going strong, Kaif fell at the other end, bowled by Afridi. Tendulkar again punched Abdul Razzaq through the off side, bisecting cover and mid off for a gorgeous boundary.
And by the time the master batsman moved into the 90s, he had started cramping very badly, and Sehwag came out as a runner for Tendulkar.
Tendulkar was now on 98, and the entire crowd was at the edge of their seats. Shoaib Akhtar steamed in and banged the ball in short. It was bowled at over 150 Km/hr, and before Tendulkar could react, it took the leading edge and Younis Khan completed the catch.
As Tendulkar walked back, the crowd at the Centurion rose to its feet to applaud the great man, who had used the bat in his hand like a magic wand and captivated them.
This knock, played over 15 years ago, by the master in the 2003 World Cup will surely go down as one of the greatest knocks in World Cup history.