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May 21, 1997. A savage onslaught by Saeed Anwar on a sweltering hot day in Chennai. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the 194 scored by the elegant left-handed opening batsman, most of it with Shahid Afridi running for him.
It was brutal, it was merciless, it was slaughter. Yet, it sparkled with style and elegance.
However, commentating on television, Glenn Turner threw a dampener on the feat by pointing out that the runner made the innings much easier, especially given the extreme heat of Chennai in May.
Yes, Anwar did call for a runner as early as the 18th over. He batted on till the 47th. Shahid Afridi, who had skied a catch to mid-on early in the innings, did all the running for the left-handed opener for nearly 30 overs. Anwar kept hitting the hapless bowlers around the ground. He clutched his thighs and hamstrings often, winced in pain, suffered from loss of fluid and heat exhaustion, but never lost the fluency which had seen him nonchalantly flick Venkatesh Prasad over mid-wicket for six in the seventh over.
Was it ethical to use a runner if one is suffering from exhaustion? If one is not struggling with injuries but the excessive heat? It is a grey area, but it does not take away the fact that on that day Anwar was brilliant.
There were the effortless lofts over the on field, the flawless drives through the off-side, the calculated chips over mid-off and even delicate deflections that found their way to the fence.
Anwar was always devastating against Indians, but that day he could do no wrong. Whenever he limped his way from the square leg to take strike, gaps seemed to widen, boundaries got closer and the time to play the strokes hovered on the infinite.
The killing blow was dealt in the 41st over bowled by Anil Kumble that went for 2, 2, 6, 6, 6, 4. The first six was perhaps fortuitous, helped along by the volleyball like parry of the long off, but the next two flew into the distant tiers over widish mid-on. Kumble fumed, but that was about all he could do.
And in the following over by Tendulkar, Anwar moved to the off-side and delicately glanced it away to the fine-leg fence. Amidst all the mayhem was the delicate touch of mastery. Many of his strokes that went into the country were affected with just that flick of the wrist. As the sun went down as a relief to the suffering outfielders, the heat was maintained by the batsman.
His willow was on fire on that sweltering day. A superbly-placed sweep off Tendulkar took him past the 13-year record of 189 set by Viv Richards. Anwar raised his arms heavenwards to celebrate. He followed it up with a square drive for four, and with more than three overs to go, the double hundred seemed there for the taking.
But, then an innocuous Tendulkar floater got him. The attempted sweep was top edged to fine leg. Saeed Anwar walked back for one of the greatest ODI innings ever witnessed, 194 from 146 balls. Runner? He managed 118 of them without needing to run at all — 22 fours and five sixes.
Even with the relationship between the two nations tottering on a knife’s edge, the Chennai crowd awarded the conquering batsman a standing ovation.
Pakistan set a target of 328, near impossible in those days of the late 1990s. And when Tendulkar departed early in the chase, the Indian cause looked hopeless. Rahul Dravid posted his maiden hundred and Vinod Kambli scored an attractive 65 to keep the optimists interested, but in the end Anwar’s heroics proved too much to overhaul. Aaqib Javed picked up five wickets and India lost by 35 runs.
Pakistan 327 for 5 in 50 overs (Saeed Anwar 194) beat India 292 all-out in 49.2 overs (Rahul Dravid 107, Vinod Kambli 65; Aaqib Javed 5 for 61) by 35 runs.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix
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