March 1, 2003 will always be engraved in the memoirs of cricketing folklore, as the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar landed a timeless knockout punch on the arch-rivals, Pakistan. India and Pakistan hadn't competed in a ODI match for three years when the fierce rivals met at the SuperSport Park in the World Cup of 2003.
Pakistan batted first and on the back of a pristine hundred by Saeed Anwar followed by handy knocks lower down the order by Rashid Latif propelled the ‘Men in Green' to a competitive 273/7 in 50 overs. With the enormity of the task at hand, the Master Blaster decided to take matters in his hands by farming the strike against Wasim Akram, and he made his intentions pretty clear with two cracking fours off the left-armer in the very first over.
If the first over was an indication of what we were to witness, Tendukar's six over deep-point followed by a pristine on-drive off Shoaib Akhtar overwhelmingly stamped his dominance on the match. The euphoric Indian supporters who had been susdued in their expression of joy roared in unision at disbelief as Tendulkar clobbered Shoib Akhtar.
The Pakistanis were flabbergasted by the assault and their hopes dwindled as India rocketed its way to fifty in just 4 overs. Tendulkar's assault was a combination of technical acumen coupled by brutal timing and pristine placement. India did lose two quick wickets as Waqar Younis nipped out Sehwag and skipper Sourav Ganguly in successive balls, but the assault that Tendulkar inflicted on the Pakistanis was truly evident when Abdul Razzaq dropped the little champion at short mid-off. The drop was magnified when Tendulkar responded with a delightful backfoot punch off Waqar Younis in the very next over. Tendulkar completed his 50 off just 32 balls with a flick off Waqar Younis, but he knew he had to take India close. Waqar was punched off the backfoot to bring up India's hundred.
Injury did not deter Little Champion
At 126/2, Tendulkar started suffering from cramps in the lower part of his body forcing the physio to be a regular on the ground in the latter part of Tendulkar's innings. Sachin still looked in control though as he flicked Afridi for a boundary to bring up 12,000 ODI runs. However, as the innings progressed Tendulkar's pain beame unbearable and Sehwag was called in as his runner, first instace for Sachin in any format of the game. However, the euphoria among the people came to a screeching halt as a short ball from Shoaib Akhtar aimed at the Master's rib-cage. Tendulkar tried to fend but couldn't handle the pace of the ball and Yonis Khan completed a diving catch at point.
Tendulkar hobbled away from the SuperSport park to an astounding standing ovation from the spectators and fifteen years to the day, the knock still lingers in the minds of cricket fans regardless of their nationality, epitomizing the sheer brilliance of the knock to the hilt.
Match Summary: Pakistan (7-273, Saeed Anwar 101) lost to India (4-276, Sachin Tendulkar 98) by six wickets.