Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo
In the most important one-day match of his career, Sachin Tendulkar was out for four as India tried to chase down a mammoth Australian total of 359. Six years later, in a game of admittedly less significance than the World Cup final, he found himself at the crease with his team once again needing more than 350 for victory. Again, India fell agonisingly short, but this time it wasn't for lack of a contribution from its talisman.
By his exceptionally high standards, the first four games of the series had not been a success. But here, having started in circumspect fashion against Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger, Tendulkar opened out to play some delightful strokes. He had eased to 10 from 19 balls when the first four came, a neat loft over mid-off against Hilfenhaus. And once Bollinger was pulled and then carved over point, Tendulkar was well into his shot-making stride.
It didn't help that wickets started to fall at the other end. Virender Sehwag departed after an entertaining cameo, while Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh both failed. But far from making him withdraw into a shell, the reverses only appear to spur Tendulkar on. Shane Watson was pulled for six over midwicket and Nathan Hauritz hoisted over the straight boundary twice in an over. By the time MS Dhoni fell, with the score on 162, Tendulkar had already raced to 95 from just 75 deliveries.
It took him six more deliveries to bring up his 45th century, and ninth against Australia, but it was clear that India would need an innings of substance from the other end if such an imposing score was to be overhauled. That supporting hand came from Suresh Raina, and with Tendulkar hitting the ball powerfully in the V and adding a few deft touches here and there, the asking rate was whittled down.
On 135, he got a life, when Michael Hussey was unable to latch on to a drive that was punched straight back at him. An edged four off Hilfenhaus merely added to the belief that it might be Tendulkar's day, and soon after, a thrash through the covers off Hussey saw him to 150 from just 122 balls. Raina was doing his part, combining quick singles with hefty blows, but it was Tendulkar who had the crowd roaring, with cute glances and a peachy off-drive off Hilfenhaus.
Then, with just over a run a ball needed and the partnership worth 137, Raina fell. No matter. Ravindra Jadeja came in and mowed a couple of deliveries over the infield, and suddenly it was down to 19 needed from the last 18 balls. Enter Clint McKay, the debutant who Tendulkar had already taken for 24 from 24 balls. He opened with a slower ball and Tendulkar went for the scoop over fine leg, having shuffled across his stumps. The extra bounce undid him, though, and as Hauritz held on at short fine leg, some of the Australians celebrated as though they had already won.
They had; the remaining batsmen were unable to see India home. By the time he trudged off, drained and desperately disappointed, Tendulkar had faced 141 balls for his 175. His 36-year-old legs had scampered 56 singles, eight twos and even a three. It was the sort of innings that deserved to win a game. Unfortunately, like one of his greatest Test knocks, the 136 against Pakistan in Chennai, it became another what-might-have-been story.