India v Pakistan

The Tempest

India 276 for 4 (Tendulkar 98, Yuvraj 50*, Dravid 44*) beat Pakistan 273 (Anwar 101) by 6 wickets

Sachin Tendulkar: at the peak of his powers © AFP

Played at an advanced stage of the league phase of the 2003 World Cup, with all sorts of permutations and combinations adding to the pressure of an India-Pakistan tie, this was a game that crackled with tension from ball one almost till the time Rahul Dravid made the hit that brought victory to his side and spent Pakistan spinning ever closer to relegation.

Pakistan had played India in each of the three previous World Cups and never won a game, but by the time the 1st of March came Waqar Younis's side had lost to both Australia and England, and it was time to skip the history lessons and launch a do-or-die effort. India, by contrast, were in a more comfortable position, having won four games out of five, but there could be no loss of momentum in such a crucial tournament.

Pakistan won the toss and chose the standard big-game option of aiming to put up runs on the board first, but both teams took time to settle, and play in the opening overs was nervy. Then Pakistan slowly began to break away, led by a veteran of many an India-Pakistan clash, now in the last stage of this career, Saeed Anwar. Even though wickets fell regularly, and Inzamam-ul-Haq, suffering from the leanest trot in his career, was comically run out, Anwar kept the scoring-rate at five an over almost singlehandedly. By the time he was fifth man out at 195 in the 41st over, shortly after bringing up his hundred, Pakistan were well set for a late thrash. They eventually totaled 273. Now history, it seemed, was on their side: India had never successfully chased more than 222 in a World Cup match.

The game had been simmering slowly upto this point, but in the first five overs of the Indian response it rose to a boil, and how. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were quickly out of the blocks, taking a boundary each off Wasim Akram's first over, but the game really took off in the second over, when three balls from Shoaib Akhtar were dispatched by Tendulkar over point for six, through square leg for four, and then down the ground for another boundary.

50 was up inside five overs, and Tendulkar, rising to the occasion, was in the most gorgeous touch he had been for some time. Undisturbed by the loss of Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly to successive balls, he lashed the ball to all corners, cutting and pulling viciously and driving powerfully on the up. After 15 overs India were 120 for 2, and Tendulkar had ensured that the run-rate would no longer be a problem for India: now it was all about keeping wickets in hand.

Shoaib, returning for a second spell, caught him out just short of a hundred with a well-aimed bouncer that he fended to point, but by this time India needed less than a hundred with more then twenty overs remaining. Dravid, just the right man for such a situation, and Yuvraj Singh, radiating confidence, saw India home by six wickets. But the final margin of victory gave little hint at how tempestuous the drama of the day had been.

Chandrahas Choudhury is staff writer is Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.