Yusuf Pathan was is in superb touch that day Screenshot from YouTube
Yusuf Pathan was is in superb touch that day Screenshot from YouTube

All cricket fans enjoy watching matches in stadium and some moments make it special. Nikhil Popat relives one amazing experience of watching a century, which none saw coming and even then, which was witnessed by mistake.

13 March 2010

On A very hot summer day in Mumbai, Brabourne stadium is packed, of course Sachin Tendulkar was playing, so what if it was an Indian Premier League (IPL) game, just the second league match of the third edition. Mumbai always had the big players but performances— consistent performances eluded them. Today seemed one such day, taking on Rajasthan Royals (RR), led by Shane Warne.

Mumbai put a big total on board, the openers; Sanath Jayasuriya and Tendulkar, laid the platform. Saurabh Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu scored fifties to post a total in excess of 200. As a cricket fan, it was a treat to watch the bat dominating the ball but as someone who loved the game and took it more seriously, it became boring after a point of time. The crowd though was delighted. MS Dhoni: Albus Dumbledore of the cricketing world

Mumbai crowd is very partisan, they know their priorities, play well but you cannot defeat our team. RR faced a daunting task of chasing 213 in 20 overs and frankly it looked past them and while Mumbai were very happy with the prospect of watching their team coast to a win, I was just hoping the Royals put up a fight. Best all-round performance in an IPL match

The people who left seats to buy the over-priced stuff, were just about coming back to their seats. Mumbai players were on the field, practicing. The countdown was done and even before people settled down, Swapnil Asnodkar was run out. Just the second ball, Rajagopal Sathish capitalised on the  hesitation between Graeme smith and Asnodkar and hit down the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Smith tries his luck, hits a few boundaries but falls to a superb return catch to Sathish.

The crowd erupts; they know their team is on top here. Yusuf Pathan comes in, he watches Abhisekh Jhunjhunwala hit a couple of hits to the fence. Time-out taken. Rajasthan are 58 for three in eight overs. They still need 155 from 12 overs, they need something special.

First ball after time-out, Ryan McLaren runs in, bowls a fuller one, Pathan winds up and hits it down the ground for a maximum. The next 4 balls in that over, Pathan hardly connects. The joy of that six seemedto be dying now. The pressure is building and Jhunjhunwala succumbed to it, the slower yorker from Malinga gets the better of him. Rajasthan  are 69 for four in ten overs. KKR’s turning point in IPL 7 was my knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad, says Yusuf Pathan

Paras Dogra has just joined Pathan.  The result seems inevitable now, people are shouting and screaming.  I stand and decide it’s enough, let’s go home, rather reach home early. In Mumbai, you tend to make decisions, based on what others may do, trains would be flocked if you leave after the game, so I was  trying to be smart, thought I might as well reach home on time for the second game that was between Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Delhi Daredevils (DD). Yuvraj Singh vs Virender Sehwag. I can’t miss it for this bore chase.

I get up and get across to the nearest possible exit, just when I am about to take turn, I see Pathan loft one towards long on, I spot Sathish there, I thought  he’ll take it, he has had a good day, but he’s dropped it. The crowd cannot believe it. I pause. Next ball, Yusuf dispatches over mid-wicket with a flick. And a the next ball, Yusuf hits it cleanly over long on. I think okay, let’s wait. This won’t last long, he’ll mistime one, I’d rather just stand and watch him get out and then leave.

Paras Dogra then does the smart thing, takes a single off the first ball of the over of Sathish and gives strike to Yusuf. Me standing near the cover fence stand, had a good view. Next ball, Pathan miscues one over long off but it carries all the way.  Yusuf then dispatches two boundaries in the next two balls, then comes another mistimed loft, McLaren is waiting.

He takes it. I say to myself, see told ya, wouldn’t last long, but no it’s six. What? Why? McLaren signaled six by himself, he had touched the ropes. Yusuf had just scored his fifty in 21 balls. I say to myself, well, might as well just sit down and watch this peacefully. Rajasthan still needed 99 more in 48 balls.

Dogra then takes a single of the first ball of the next over, Yusuf on strike,  fuller ball is dabbed down to third man for boundary. Another four results off the next delivery, this time, placed wide of point for a boundary. What is happening? Mumbai are now feeling the pressure, McLaren then bowls a Yorker, Yusuf almost guides it ever so neatly to the third man fence. You just know, he is up for it. This is something special from him. But Sachin spots danger, calls back Malinga and Zaheer who bowl two tight overs.  RR need 70 from 30 balls, Yuvraj Singh scored this many all by himself against Australia in 2007 T20 World Cup. This was possible, may be, just may be.

Ali Murtaza bowls a tight over but has one four hit off him by Yusuf after Mumbai miss a run-out chance to dismiss Dogra. Sanath is given the ball, three singles result off first three balls, everyone knew what was coming. He is already on 84, in just 33 balls. SIX, FOUR , SIX! A six over mid-wicket, an edge past third man for a boundary and a towering six over the bowler’s head. That is his hundred, maiden IPL hundred! 100 off just 37 balls. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, the game was alive by a whisker, it had been a superb ton, the crowd did not know how to react. But the crowd gives him a standing ovation.

Sathish comes in to bowl. I expected Yusuf to go after him, it was time for Dogra to take the single, he does but Sathish has deflected onto the stumps and appeals. The heart sinks. No, not like this, please. To my horror and the joy of the crowd, Pathan was caught short backing up a bit too far. Oh dear, what a way to get out! He was probably just getting back, concentrating to get back to his work but he is gone now. Rajasthan needed 40 in 17 balls.

Dogra takes it down to 19 from 12 balls, Zaheer Khan, then in his prime, bowls a good over, keeps Malinga 12 runs to defend off the final over. Dogra was on 41 but not,on strike. First ball, Dimitri Mascarenhas digs out a Yorker, runs, but Malinga dives on the ground to stop and scores a direct hit at the striker’s end to catch Dogra short. That was it, you thought. He then bowled Amit Unyal first ball and then just concedes 7 runs off his next 4 balls and Mumbai win by four runs. Just four runs!

I couldn’t just believe that I had almost missed this knock from him, I had almost turned my back of the game. The game turned on its head just the moment I was about to leave. It went down the wire as Ravi Shastri has proclaimed for umpteenth times. But it was worth it. It was a game, a chase, no one saw coming. A fightback,  a superb counter-attack from Yusuf Pathan, hitting a ton, that I almost missed.! If anything, it just reassured me of why so many of us cricket lovers, love the game, for its glorious uncertainties!

(Nikhil Popat is a cricket lover and a PotterHead. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)