Remembering Desert Storm, 16 years on
Mitchell Johnson dug it in short, and Karn Sharma swatted at the ball more in hope than with any idea of where he wanted to hit it. The ball soared over the roof of the East Stand and fell somewhere on the street beyond. It would have been a memorable sight, had it not been the third time in the match that a six had flown out of the ground. It was the 17th six of the match.
Exactly 16 years ago, when cricket bats weren't so springy and sixes weren't so plentiful, back when sixes still had the power to thrill you, there had been a famous match in Sharjah- an ODI between India and Australia. Sachin Tendulkar had struck five sixes that day, sending the commentators into paroxysms of excitement, during an innings of 143 that is among his most talked-about centuries in coloured clothes. It was a century made in swirling dust and came to be known as "The Desert Storm".
Next to me, 16 years later, sits a man who was here, at this ground, when Tendulkar played that innings. Madhu, now a 41-year-old systems administrator had just moved to Sharjah from Hyderabad back in 1998.
To someone who, to his eternal regret, went off to sleep as soon as Ajay Jadeja was dismissed, and therefore missed the most exciting bits of Tendulkar's innings, this man seems incredibly blessed. He didn't just watch all of the innings when it happened; he was only 75 or so yards away and, in all probability, dancing in the aisles.
"I don't remember too much, actually," he says, when pressed for details. "It happened such a long time ago."
No, you want to tell him. It didn't happen a long time ago. It only happened in 1998.
There is enough evidence right here, though, that it happened way back in 1998. Tom Moody, who took two wickets that day, is now Hyderabad's coach. VVS Laxman, who was mostly a spectator in a 104-run partnership with Tendulkar, is one of their mentors.
Madhu puts his arm around the boy seated next to him, a boy who is possibly six feet tall. "This is Nikhil, my brother's son. He was just one year old then."
Some people, then, have grown older. But the stadium itself, Madhu says, hasn't changed too much, underneath all the IPL branding.
"They've put in new seats, but otherwise everything is pretty much the same. In those days, the Indians and Pakistanis used to sit in different stands. They wouldn't mingle too much. And back then," he says, pointing at the VIP boxes to our left, "a lot of Bollywood actors would sit there." That certainly hasn't changed.
Above us, the long-stemmed ceiling fans also look like they have been here for decades, and haven't been dusted all that often in that time. The area outside the stadium, too, can't have changed too much. It's clearly not undergone any sort of gentrification. There are a couple of tyre shops right next to the stadium, and the streets in the vicinity are full of shops selling spare parts, sanitary ware, floor tiles and diesel generators.
The main stadium road is called Second Industrial Street. You can watch streams of cars go down it, if you turn to your right from the Members' Enclosure. Back in the 90s, TV broadcasts of Sharjah matches would often cut to the traffic, and it looked just as it does even now. Unless it is a strange trick of the memory.
Tendulkar's 143, and his 134 in the final two days later, won India a trophy named after a fizzy drink. The IPL's main sponsor is the rival fizzy drink. Tendulkar also won a car for his efforts, and the entire team piled into it after the presentation ceremony to drive a couple of laps around the outfield.
Photographs from India's celebrations contain one face that was then considered exotic: Andrew Kokinos, the team's Australian physiotherapist. Sixteen years later, seven of the eight IPL teams have foreign head coaches.
Everything, then, is different, but Tendulkar's 143 still resonates well with most. At one point, during Glenn Maxwell's manic innings, the words Desert Storm had flashed on the replay screen in big bold capital letters. Sure, this is the desert, and it's become something of a cliché, but you'd like to think the guy keying in the text wouldn't have reached for it if it hadn't been for the original Desert Storm.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo