ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v England, World Cup 2011, Group B, Bangalore

Strauss and Tendulkar weave a tapestry to savour

Right there in the middle of a frenzied stadium, for about five hours, there were these two geezers doing needlepoint

Sharda Ugra in Bangalore

February 27, 2011

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss celebrates his century, India v England, World Cup, Group B, Bangalore, February 27, 2011
Andrew Strauss produced a masterful innings that showed a true craftsman at work © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Andrew Strauss | Sachin Tendulkar
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: England | India

India v England, the World Cup, Bangalore, was supposed to be Razzmatazz Central. Chinnaswamy was heaving, sometimes spontaneously, often annoyingly orchestrated by a giant screen trying to get an Indian cricket crowd to follow instructions. There was schmaltzy muzak between overs, a "shout meter" and regular sightings of business tycoons, Bollywood stars and many Unidentified Importants. It was showtime and it awaited the showboaters of both teams to seize centre stage.

But right there in the middle of all this, for about five hours, there were these two geezers doing needlepoint.

To mention Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss in the same sentence as fabric and embroidery is to invite lawsuits, so it must be swiftly said that they were not involved in stitching of any sort in Bangalore. Other than their team's innings, each of their centuries being the single strongest thread that held it together, not for its entire length and width, but almost.

They did so with two ODI centuries that showed off the tones of the 50-over game making its cheerful Twenty20 cousin appear a little monotone. There were no bravado shots, no unnecessary risk-taking, just two batsmen who sized up where they were, what they were up against and then went about everything with precision. Every warp could he handled because Strauss and Tendulkar stayed true to the fundamental weft of their batting. Both centuries contained an evolved intelligence of design. Their embroidery didn't contain flourish. Its beauty lay in its simplicity and its intention.

To use a posh word, it was just too darn classy.

First to Strauss, because he batted second. Always under the cosh, in a match where defeat would have set about the shivers, in a stadium rooting against him, in conditions regarded as alien, against a bowling attack cobbled together to do just this sort of job in these kind of game. At the innings break, Strauss said he had told his team, "Lads, that's an unbelievably flat wicket, we can chase this".

It is one thing to concede 292 against Netherlands and chase, and quite another to do so against India at home. The chase was done, Strauss said, in exactly the same way as they had against Netherlands, milking singles (he scored 80 runs in ones and twos), "and taking on the odd boundary in the middle. It's the sort of chase that gives you a lot of confidence as a batting unit that you can chase down anything."

Take away Strauss's 158 and the nine other Englishmen who batted on Sunday night, scored 180 between them. Take away his partner Ian Bell's 69 and that calculation becomes even worse. Strauss considers his highest ODI score, from only his sixth century, his best-ever innings in the format. He had thrown everything into it - mind, body and soul - and did not allow it to be anything else. On Saturday afternoon, he had said that England were far better players of spin than they used to be and his partnership with Bell was the proof.

Strauss scored 107 runs off the 98 balls he faced from the Indian spinners, reading length and leaping onto his back foot against them with confidence. He reverse-swept Pathan on one occasion and stepped out and struck Yuvraj Singh over long-on, the six carrying both distance and impact. Bell scored 49 in 51 off the four Indian slow bowlers, Strauss saying that his innings had been just the hand England required. "You need to be scoring freely from both ends when you are chasing that many and he (Bell) did that from ball one.".

A few hours before all that, Tendulkar had just been Tendulkar, racking up his 47th ODI century and extending his World Cup tally to five in six tournaments. Those numbers may sound monotonous but they bring with it a level of consistency Tendulkar has acquired in the ODI game, as if he has found himself a tool to help him do so. It's a bit like Adam Gilchrist and his 2007 squash ball, except for Tendulkar the piece of equipment, he uses, is his mind. In Bangalore, he struck the first boundary in the ninth over and his first six came in the 18th, yet his tempo never waned. He had Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh to keep pace with him and they gave India the chance to reach a total which, ideally, should have set them up to win the match.

What both Tendulkar and Strauss managed was to be themselves in a situation that could have muddled the minds of the less assured and taken apart the structure of the less skilled. Tendulkar was the calculative aggressor, batting amidst a wave of sound from tens of thousands of throats carrying him along. Strauss was modern classicist, in his own skin in the short game, thoughtful, methodical, his assurance, turning the noise into a tense hush.

After the game, Geoffrey Boycott said the match had showed up every reason why 50-over cricket needed to be loved: "It helps craftsmen play."

Tendulkar and Strauss today were craftsmen of the highest calibre who used the time they had at the crease to show their team-mates, and the crowd watching, how an ODI innings was meant to be planned, paced and constructed. After the craftsmen were gone, the purpose of both teams' turned to pudding. India got knotted up at the end of its innings and England came close to unravelling in a heap.

After the efforts of two centurions whom old Rome would have been proud to call their own, it was only fair that everything tied up neatly.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 46 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 1, 2011, 23:08 GMT)

Wow. What a match. Could anyone even predicted that this match was going to be tie.....Yes it was predicted before 8 hours the game begin and this was the first game on which gamblers place bet on new third option (tie)

Posted by Achuth on (March 1, 2011, 14:40 GMT)

@D.Sharma : There is no rule that batsman has to walk if he knicks the ball. It is the players responsibilty to appeal for a catch and umpire's duty to give it out. In this match Dhoni had no sense to even appeal for a catch(not once but twice). I felt like he was not even interested in winning the watch.

Posted by Niladri on (March 1, 2011, 12:14 GMT)

@AniketDesai: Since you brought up 2003, you also go and check the 2003 WC match against Pakistan. You can also refresh your memory on how Sachin performs under pressure by looking at the match when Australia scored 354 and Sachin ended up scoring 175 in a losing cause because no one else was there to help him out. You can also check your records as Sachin single-handedly won the finals in Australia, that also while chasing. Yes, Andrew Strauss played awesome! There's no doubt about that. But, to admire his inning, you don't have to put down a legend. That is uncalled for!!!

Posted by Deep on (March 1, 2011, 1:54 GMT)

@Arvind Prabhakar Parasuri... what about in the CB series in 07/08? Check the commentary... Sachin knicked, but he did not walk.

Posted by Vikram on (February 28, 2011, 23:42 GMT)

a) Strauss' nick - you guys think he would have felt that? it was sort of a feather touch b) Dhoni sending Yuvraj instead of Kohli - that was a case of not being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Yuvraj needs to hit form if India harbours any chance of winning the World Cup. Yuvraj would not have been sent in if the score were 80/2. He was sent in because it was around 180/2 and it was his best chance to hit some form without the total not suffering a lot. c) Bowlers being poor - How do you expect the bowlers to thrive when the pitch is lifeless? Strauss did say that it was unbelievably flat. There were still bright spots at times with Yardy, Bresnan, Zaheer, and Harbhajan d) Indian fielding was bad - agreed

Posted by Sujith on (February 28, 2011, 23:02 GMT)

Great article Sharda. Your analysis of the two centurions is spot-on.

Posted by Achuth on (February 28, 2011, 21:21 GMT)

@cooljack_143 : I have no idea what you are talking about. Sachin has scored 47hundreds out of which india has won 33 lost 12 and tied 1. It means india has 70% chance of winning a match if sachin scores a century. Which is better than most of the playesr. Please stop this stupid superstious belief that if "sachin scores a century india will lose".

Posted by cool on (February 28, 2011, 19:55 GMT)

Well Sachin is a Legend no doubt about it but please spare a thought for Andrew who has played best of his life time innings today.Wadddaaa plaayyyy! I don lik sachin to score century coz when ever he makes it India loose it no matter what.Iam a gr8 fan of sachin and same time superstitious too in that matter.2nd of all the person to be blamed here is CAPTAINCY of MS Dhoni.What a sucker.How many matches does he need to play for improvng his skills.Why send the formless Yuvraj to bat ahead of in-form Kohli,who would have eased pressure of Sachin ,if u observe yuvraj play he is playing to come to com to form and Why the hell give MS give ball to piyush in the 48th over .Any other bowler could have done much better than him.he sees that piyush is being hit ruthlessly and again and again goes for him.Might have given a chance to pathan who can slide the ball atleast.How long does India have to go with this captain.Well may be till he retires:-) QUIT MS.QUIT MS QUIT MS.Sad for inidin fans

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 28, 2011, 17:30 GMT)

@ Kiwirocker: If you have seen the match of SL (vs.) Pak; commentator clearly mentioned that Pak has won all the matches in WC against SL till date. So, some teams have a hold of other teams when it comes to WC., and FYI I don't need to remind you about the WC history of Ind (vs.) Pak encounters., Bottom line is when it comes to WC., some teams have a psychological hold on other teans and at the End of the Day cricket is a funny game., So, any thing can happen on a given day., which ever team plays the best on that given day., wins. So, no clear favorites for this WC..

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 28, 2011, 16:43 GMT)

IS nicking the ball and holding ground a display of sportsmanship ?? I can vouch for the fact that Sachin would have walked away if he had been in a similar situation. Don't compare the God to a human form.

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