Sachin Tendulkar © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar © Getty Images

 

By CricketCountry Staff

 

India vs Pakistan, ICC World Cup, SuperSport Park, Centurion, 1 March 2003

 

India won by 6 wickets

 

The crowd at Centurion’s SuperSport Park was probably never as voluble as it was on this day playing host to what was billed as the match of the 2003 World Cup – India versus Pakistan. Frenzied flag-waving, drum-beating, the stadium awash with supporters of both nations who had painted their faces or wore clothes that left no one in doubt which team they were supporting. The ambience was… electric!

 

And if there was one player from either side whose wicket meant much for both sides it was Sachin Tendulkar. And the champion ensured that the 19,000 strong crowd would leave the ground with some unforgettable memories.

 

Tendulkar’s strokeplay was breathtaking. He took it upon himself the responsibility of chasing down a challenging Pakistan target of 274 by stamping his authority on the Pakistan bowlers at the outset with a sweetly-timed square drive off Wasim Akram in the first over.

 

Tendulkar was the lord of all he surveyed, but if one were to pick a single moment of brilliance it has to be fierce uppercut over point for six off temperamental paceman Shoaib Akhtar. That stroke of genius was followed by an elegant flick to the square-leg boundary. The onslaught was rounded up with a caress down the ground that saw the ball zip to the long-on fence.

 

The mayhem on Shoaib prompted skipper Waqar Younis to remove him from the attack after just one over! It was obvious that Tendulkar had made a mess of Pakistan’s game plan with that assault on Akhtar.

 

Pakistan didn’t have an answer on how to contain a pumped-up Tendulkar. He found gaps on the off-side with ridiculous ease and it did not matter whether the ball was pitched up or dug in short.

 

His strong off-side strokes were also complemented by exquisite flicks on the on-side. A flick off Waqar to the deep mid-wicket brought his half-century in just 37 balls.

 

His early blitz ensured India were always in control of the required run rate, despite the early loss Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly. Tendulkar was within sight of his hundred when he was out fending at a short ball from Akhtar in the 28th over. His 98, off just 75 balls, had done the damage. India’s target at this stage was under hundred as Mohammad Kaif, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh came to the party to take the match through the expected course.

 

Tendulkar’s majestic knock drew copious praise from World Cup organising committee chief Ali Bacher who send a telegram which read. “We wanted this World Cup to be the most successful World Cup ever and your innings against Pakistan at Centurion has helped us achieve that.