A target of 274 stared at India. Pakistan, served by the three-man pace attack of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, was eyeing the nation’s first World Cup victory over India.
Pakistan owed much to opener Saeed Anwar’s 101. The stage was now set for India to find its hero. The first 50 runs came in just 4.5 overs! The fall of Virender Sehwag and No. 3 Sourav Ganguly off successive deliveries in the sixth over made no impact on the man of the moment — Sachin Tendulkar.
In what turned out to be an awe-inspiring counter-attack, Tendulkar toyed with the pace trio. His timing was exquisite and his choice of strokes exemplary. He did require some medical attention during this oft-recalled onslaught, but he resumed with a pleasing, straight-driven four.
When on 98, Tendulkar needed a runner. Sehwag returned to the middle but the master departed on resumption — failing to keep Akhtar’s rising delivery away from a diving Younus Khan. Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh then raised 99 runs to take India past the finish line. But what stays in memory is Tendulkar’s strokeplay off Akhtar’s first over. The prelude came in the 10th ball of the innings, when Tendulkar deposited the wide, rising delivery into the stands behind third man.
What followed was a stroke to recall and relive — a wristy flick to the mid-wicket fence. Using the extra pace, Tendulkar stroked the ball just right to find the gap. No power, only pure timing. In fact, Tendulkar ended the over with another well-timed on-driven four. But the image of that flick off the earlier delivery is meant to live on.
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