Sachin (Upper)cuts Pakistan in Half

The world feared Shoaib Akhtar, but he feared one man: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Sachin stamps his authority over Pakistan | Source- MyKhel

Any India-Pakistan game is a high-tension one, but when you throw the World Cup into the mix, every aspect of the rivalry gets turned up to ten. On a sunny March afternoon, Sourav Ganguly walked out to the toss along with Waqar Younis to loud, enthusiastic cheers from supporters of both teams; the latter won and chose to bat on a good surface in Centurion.

This encounter, in particular, was fraught with tension because of the political ties of the countries which had been topsy-turvy in recent years off the back of the Kargil war and a lethal attack on the Indian parliament a little over 15 months ago. Pakistan had thus far never triumphed over the Indians in their encounters in the World Cup, despite boasting of a superior record in bilateral games between the two teams.

For what it's worth, Pakistan did everything that was in their power to make a game out of it. Saeed Anwar gave the perfect start, and his hundred scored at a brisk pace ensured that the run rate remained a healthy bit over five for almost the entirety of their innings. Thanks to Younis Khan, Rashid Latif, and Wasim Akram, they scored over a hundred runs in their last fourteen overs. While these are rookie numbers by today's standards, they counted for a lot back then.

Chasing 273 runs was already an uphill task, but doing so against a pace attack made up of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, and the guile of Shahid Afridi was no mean feat. Pakistan had a habit of being utterly and bizarrely unpredictable. They could perform like the best team in the world on one day and look like absolute rookies the next. The Indian team and fans alike were both aware of what going up against Pakistan was like. The shame associated with a defeat on the world stage to Pakistan of all teams was unparalleled. With the way they had batted, it appeared that a world-beater Pakistani team had turned up on the day.

But by the time the game finished, India had strolled to a victory with 26 balls to spare because of one man: Sachin Tendulkar. Saeed Anwar must have thought he had played a blinder, but Tendulkar gave him a masterclass in playing blinders right in front of his eyes.

Sachin was having the tournament of his life, but this fixture stuck out like a thorn for him. He had been preparing himself to play the game for the longest time and he had had sleepless nights for almost two weeks before this game. Once he stepped out in the middle, never once did it feel like a sleep-deprived man was batting.

Shoaib Akhtar at that point was one of the most feared pacers on the planet. The Rawalpindi Express, as his moniker went, had terrorised many batsmen before. To nobody's surprise, he came on to bowl the second over, right after Akram had been hit for a boundary each by both Tendulkar and Sehwag. After a nervous first three balls, he aimed one outside the off-stump and tried to exact as much bounce from the pitch as possible. Sachin effortlessly upper-cut it into the stands for a six. The next ball was a less remarkable boundary, but the last ball of the over was tapped towards mid-on with all the time in the world. Thus ended a dreadful over for Shoaib and, with it, Pakistan's hopes of getting a result.

Tendulkar had stamped his authority in remarkable fashion with three shots that would forever live on in the memories of Indian cricket fans. Although the tournament ended in heartbreak for him and India in the finals, he would eventually end up living his greatest dream 8 years later, on 2 April 2011. That is a story for another day.


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