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When Sachin Tendulkar Thrashed Wasim, Waqar & Shoaib En Route Epic 98 vs PAK In WC 2003

Sachin Tendulkar smashed Shoaib Akhtar for a memorable six (X.com)Sachin Tendulkar smashed Shoaib Akhtar for a memorable six (X.com)

On a day that dawned like any other, the cricketing community was set to witness an innings that would be etched in history as a masterpiece of one-day cricket. 

Twenty-one years ago, on this very day, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar played an inning that was nothing short of legendary against arch-rival Pakistan in the ICC World Cup 2023 hosted in South Africa.

Tendulkar's masterclass guided India to fourth World Cup win vs Pakistan

The backdrop was Match 36 of the tournament, a stage set at Centurion, South Africa, where India and Pakistan faced off in what was anticipated to be an epic clash. 

Having won the toss and elected to bat first, Pakistan put on a massive total of 273/7, thanks to a brilliant century by opener Saeed Anwar (101) and a valuable contribution from Younis Khan (32). The stage was set for a thrilling chase, and the air was thick with anticipation.

As India commenced their innings, all eyes were on Sachin Tendulkar and his opening partner, Virender Sehwag. 

Tendulkar, taking the strike, made his intentions clear from the outset. On the third ball, he elegantly punched Wasim Akram for the first boundary of the innings, setting the tone for what was to come. The first over saw India score nine runs, a statement of sorts, with Sehwag complementing Tendulkar's boundary with one of his own.

The following over, bowled by Pakistan's pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, was a showcase of Tendulkar's brilliance. 

An audacious uppercut for a six over the third-man fielder was followed by a flick through square leg for four and then a stunning drive past mid-on. This six was a shot that would be talked about for generations. In a matter of moments, Tendulkar was at 20 off nine balls, a start that had the fans and the Pakistani bowlers in awe.

The partnership between Tendulkar and Sehwag added a quick 53 runs before the latter fell to Waqar Younis. Indian captain Sourav Ganguly joined Tendulkar but was dismissed for a duck, leaving India momentarily in a spot of bother. 

However, Mohammad Kaif stepped in to stabilize the innings, providing the perfect foil to Tendulkar's aggression.

The Master Blaster, unnerved by the fall of wickets, continued his onslaught, bringing up his half-century off just 37 balls. The intensity of his innings was such that by the end of the 16th over, he had raced to 73 off 47 balls, a pace that kept the required run rate in check and the pressure firmly on Pakistan.

Amidst his breathtaking strokes, Tendulkar also achieved a personal milestone, reaching his 12,000th run in ODIs. However, his march towards what seemed an inevitable century was halted at 98, as he fell to a short delivery from Shoaib Akhtar. The Centurion crowd and millions watching around the world felt a collective heartbreak.

However, the foundation laid by Tendulkar's 98 off 75 balls was built upon by Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh, who steered India home with an unbeaten partnership, completing the chase in 45 overs. 

This victory was historic, not just for how the chase was executed but also because it marked India's highest successful run chase in World Cup history at the time, surpassing their previous best of 222.