The year was 1998 and the Australians arrived in India eying a series victory. The focus was on the clash of the titans: Sachin Tendulkar vs Shane Warne. The world’s best batsman and the world’s leading spinner, both at the peak of their careers, clashing in a full-fledged Test series.
For Tendulkar, it was a huge personal challenge as he prepared for a face-off with Warne. In the lead-up to the series, Tendulkar famously simulated scenarios in the nets with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan donning the role of Warne.
Tendulkar pounced on the opportunity to face the Australians before the Test series in the tour opener against Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium.
The three-day game began on February 24 with Australia winning the toss and electing to bat first. Michael Slater’s innings of 98 and Ricky Ponting’s 53 took Australia to 305 for eight at the end of the first day. Mark Taylor decided to declare at that score and allow his bowlers a workout in the Indian conditions. Little did they know what they were heading into.
Mumbai lost Sulakshan Kulkarni early, but opener Amit Pagnis went on to score a brisk fifty. He was ultimately dismissed with the score on 71 and out came Tendulkar. Sanjay Manjrekar was at the other end and he was playing his last First-Class game.
By lunch on Day Two, Tendulkar had warmed up for the stellar show as he went in unbeaten on 35. What followed was utter carnage. It was almost as if he was playing one-day cricket. He raced to his fifty in only 46 balls. Warne was earmarked for special treatment — a glimpse of things to come.
It took Tendulkar only 44 more deliveries to reach his 100 off 90 balls. At Tea, Mumbai were 266 for four with Tendulkar on 134 not out. In one session he had scored 99 runs.
In the next session, Tendulkar mauled the Australian attack. He overhauled his previous First-Class best of 179 and was in sight of his maiden double hundred. That a batsman of his calibre hadn’t scored a double hundred till then was a huge surprise. But late on the second day, Tendulkar finally reached his first-ever double hundred. He finished unbeaten on 204 from 192 deliveries with 25 fours and two sixes.
In his 16 overs, Warne conceded 111 runs without a wicket while Gavin Robertson, the off-spinner, conceded 96 in his 15 overs.
Mumbai declared at 410 for four, thereby taking a 105-run lead. The Australian batsmen may have felt they could get into their stride with a day to go, but they were in for a rude shock. At the end of Day Two, they found themselves 36 for three with Greg Blewett and Ponting at the crease. The next day, the two Australian batsmen looked determined to steer the ship. However, Nilesh Kulkarni stormed through the line-up. From 81 for three, they collapsed to 135 all out, with Kulkarni scalping five.
A paltry target of 31 was chased down by the Mumbai openers without much difficulty. Australia were left shell-shocked. A domestic side had beaten them inside three days. Normally, one would expect such contests end in dull draws or the superior side would end up winning. But, such was the Tendulkar effect that it rubbed off on his teammates and Australia were handed a shocking defeat.
While this innings may not be remembered as much as some of his international exploits, it is critical in every aspect. It set the tone for a magnificent season for Tendulkar. In the months to come, he tormented Warne and enjoyed a rich vein of form. The glory days of Chennai and Sharjah were to follow, but somewhere down the line that extraordinary day at Brabourne has been forgotten.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
First Published: February 25, 2013, 10:42 am