It was the 24th of April 1998. The iconic Sharjah cricket stadium was filled to capacity. Just two days earlier, the Indians had come within touching distance of a sensational victory over the Australians. They had come agonizingly close to the Australian target, and a certain Sachin Tendulkar had toyed with their bowling, smashing them to all parts of the ground.
The Kangaroos had somehow managed to scrape through in spite of the Tendulkar storming the desserts of Sharjah in the previous encounter.
On the big day of the final, the Aussies batted first and put up a challenging total of 272 runs on the board. It was a stiff chase, and needless to say, the hopes of the ‘Men in Blue’ hinged on how Tendulkar fared with the willow.
Sachin Tendulkar Began Where He Left
Sachin Tendulkar, who was also celebrating his 25th birthday on that day, opened his account with a beautifully timed drive past cover. It was just a mere push by Tendulkar, and he was off the mark with a couple (not a couple, Sachin ended up one short).
Tendulkar’s first boundary of the match proved that he was just carrying on from where he left off a couple of days earlier. Kasprowicz bowled the ball up to him in the hope of getting some swing, and Tendulkar lunged forward and caressed him past cover for a boundary.
Off the fifth ball of the fifth over, the Indians would have had their hearts in their mouths. Tendulkar tried to leave the delivery bowled by Fleming, the ball bounced more than expected, took the inside edge, and missed the stumps by just a few inches.
Amazing Consistency Continued
Could it be his day? Could Sachin Tendulkar do an encore in the final and take India home?
Even though India lost Ganguly at the other end, Tendulkar was slowly but surely steering India to safety. He welcomed Tom Moody to the bowling crease by swatting him over mid wicket for a boundary.
The ‘Little Master’ brought up his fifty with a couple to deep mid wicket. And, as the diminutive batting maestro looked up to the heavens, Ravi Shastri exclaimed in the commentary box “The amazing run of consistency continues. Yet another half century for Sachin Tendulkar.”
The Australians introduced the spin bowling wizard Shane Warne, into the bowling attack in a desperate bid to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar. The master greeted Warne by dancing down the track with elegance and deposited him into the stands.
The crowd went delirious, as Tendulkar seized the initiative against his rival. Tendulkar was at the peak of his powers, and he was making everything around him appear ordinary.
Off the fourth ball of the 37th over, the stadium erupted in joy as Tendulkar flicked the ball for a single and completed his 15th ODI hundred. After the three figure mark, Tendulkar showed no signs of stopping.
No Signs of Stopping
The wily Warne tossed the ball up to Tendulkar, and Tendulkar smashed him over his head for a boundary. Off the next ball, Tendulkar bisected the off side field and drove Warne past deep cover for another boundary. The Indians were cruising, and Australia was running out of answers.
Off the fifth ball of the 43rd over, Tendulkar danced down the track and smashed Tom Moody over his head for six. And, as the ball landed on the sight screen, a ballistic Tony Greig screamed, “He’s hit this one miles. Oh!, it’s a biggie. He’s half his size, and he has smashed him down the ground. What a wonderful player.”
At the end of the 43rd over, the Indian scorecard read 237/2, and victory seemed imminent for the Indian side.
Off the first ball of the 45th over, Tendulkar hoisted Kasprowicz for a stunning six straight down the ground and the ball landed on the roof. He was playing a superlative knock here, and single handedly taking India closer to the target. But then, the third ball of the 45th over proved to be Tendulkar’s undoing. Kasprowicz came around the wicket, Tendulkar missed the cherry, and he was adjudged LBW.
After the great man’s dismissal, the Indians romped home quite comfortably by 6 wickets. Sharjah has not seen such an innings ever again by any other mortal man, and Tendulkar illuminated Sharjah with his thunderous performances with the willow on two glorious nights in the deserts.
Follow us on facebook for more sports news & updates