It was the 2nd of March 2008. India were taking on Australia in their own backyard. The fact that it was also the first final of the CB series added spice to the contest. India had never won the tri-series Down Under before, and the first final presented an opportunity for the ‘Men in Blue’ to gain the upper hand over the Aussies. There was also a master, into his 19th year in international cricket. He had seen it all, and done it all.
Yet, there existed an anomaly. Sachin Tendulkar had never scored an ODI hundred in Australia. And what better occasion to choose, than the first final of the CB series to tick off an important milestone and add another feather in his already glittering cap?
The Australians batted first on a bright sunny day and put on a competitive 239 runs on the board. The pressure of chasing coupled with the strong Australian bowling attack was bound to make things tougher for the Indians. India started things off rather cautiously, with Robin Uthappa and Tendulkar preferring to rotate the strike with some good running between the wickets.
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Tendulkar scored his first boundary in the 4th ball of the fourth over. Nathan Bracken bowled the ball fractionally short, and the master blaster pounced on it, and cut him fiercely past point for four. Tendulkar’s second boundary displayed the command that he had on his timing and his skill to split the field. James Hopes bowled a perfectly good delivery on off-stump. Tendulkar got onto the front foot, opened the face of the bat, and steered the ball between point and cover with the precision of a surgeon.
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Then, off the fourth ball of the 17th over, he went inside out and hoisted Brad Hogg over cover for four. He got to his fifty with a pull to deep mid-wicket for a single, and the Indian supporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) roared in unison.
Tendulkar went inside out yet again and it was almost a repeat of the previous boundary. He shimmied down the track with elegance, smothering the turn and hoisted Hogg over cover.
In the last ball of the 29th over, Mitchell Johnson came around the wicket and bowled a short delivery, with the intention to deny width to Tendulkar. The little master got under the ball, executed his trademark upper cut and the ball sailed over Adam Gilchrist’s head for a boundary. Off the fifth ball of the 35th over, Tendulkar danced down the track and smashed Hopes past mid-on for a boundary. The asking rate was climbing up stealthily, and Tendulkar eased the pressure by carting Hopes.
Off the first ball of the 42nd over, history was created. Tendulkar nudged the ball to third man for a single, and with that reached triple figures for the first time in Australia in ODIs. The great man punched the air in delight, and Ravi Shastri went ecstatic on air screaming
“Cometh the hour, cometh the champion. And No. 42 for Tendulkar.”
Tendulkar knew that the job was not yet done. Johnson came over the wicket and pitched the ball on off stump. Tendulkar got his front foot forward and drove him with finesse past mid-off for a boundary. India were inching closer to victory.
The Indian captain MS Dhoni hit the winning runs by hooking Hopes past square leg. It was a historic moment, as India went 1-0 up in the best of three finals. The master remained unbeaten on 117*, and steered India past the finish line.
This would turn out to be Tendulkar’s first and only hundred in Australia. And, he could not have chosen a better occasion than the final of the all important CB Series against the Australians.Published 07 Jan 2020, 22:56 IST