The Indian faces reflect their feelings: wonder what their rivals’ faces looked like after the match? © Getty Images
The Indian faces reflect their feelings: wonder what their rivals’ faces looked like after the match? © Getty Images

Four years after the Old Trafford encounter, India and Pakistan met together in an intense contest at Centurion on March 1, 2003. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at what many rate as Sachin Tendulkar’s finest One-Day International (ODI) innings. India vs Pakistan Live Score

I was not a student when India played Pakistan at Centurion in cricket World Cup 2003, and bunking work was not exactly the same as bunking classes. But the organisers had planned it well, the match fell on a Saturday; and we used to remain closed on Saturdays. It was also my brother’s (and Shahid Afridi’s) birthday. PREVIEW: India vs Pakistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Match at Adelaide

I was back at my favourite place: on the floor, leaning against the sofa. The Pakistanis, especially Saeed Anwar, played some dazzling strokes, but India kept pegging them back with regular wickets. There were twenties and thirties, and Anwar led the way yet again, scoring 101 before falling to Ashish Nehra.

When Afridi started to look ominous, Sourav Ganguly cleverly brought on Dinesh Mongia to get rid of him. Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan hit a few strong blows, as did Wasim Akram and Rashid Latif. When Pakistan reached 273 for seven, the verdict in the Mukherjee household was unanimous: the target was well beyond the scope of India. Stories on India vs Pakistan, Cricket World Cup clashes.

Virender Sehwag started in his typical cavalier fashion. We know what followed, so I will not go into the details of all that. I did not shout. I did not jump. I did not punch the floor in ecstasy. I simply sat there, open-mouthed. I drooled, in the literal sense of the word. My throat became dry. Time came to a standstill as Sachin Tendulkar unleashed himself on Pakistan.

No mortal could bat like that. No one. It was an innings meant for divine eyes. It was an innings way beyond the scope of mortals. I forgot food. I forgot water. Had it been within my scope I would possibly have forgotten oxygen. Seldom has adrenaline gushed inside me the way it did when Tendulkar uppercut Shoaib Akhtar for that six.

Sachin Tendulkar's innings © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar’s innings could be rated among his best in ODIs © Getty Images

The innings that contained as much magic as any other I have seen. It was unbelievable when it eventually come to an end. Tendulkar suffered from cramps, and had to opt for a runner It was certainly not good news.

Of course, it had to be Shoaib. It was only justice being served. He had not been having a good day till then, but he unleashed a screaming bouncer out of nowhere. It was one of those unplayable Shoaib specials: Tendulkar could only fend it off his face, and the innings ended two short of what would possibly have been his most deserved hundred. Then, again, the much-coveted figure paled into insignificance when compared to the quality of the innings.

The match, however, was far from over: 177 for four was by no means a situation where a victory was guaranteed. But then, Yuvraj Singh had started striking the ball well, and with the reassuring presence of Rahul Dravid at the other end, Ma’s infamous pessimism wore off with every passing over. In the end we made it with 26 balls to spare.

My brother must have cut a cake later that night, but I have absolutely no memories of it. March 1, 2003 will always remind me of a two-digit number: ninety-eight.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 273 for 7 in 50 overs (Saeed Anwar 101) lost to India 276 for 4 in 45.4 overs (Sachin Tendulkar 98, Rahul Dravid 44*, Yuvraj Singh 50*) by 6 wickets with 26 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Sachin Tendulkar.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

PREVIEW: India vs Pakistan ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Match at Adelaide