Many would have betted on him to achieve this superhuman feat – but few actually believed that he could do that when he was almost 37. Yes, we are talking about Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar who took the world at its feet by breaking the 200-barrier for the first time.
Whenever it would have happened, the 200 was certainly going to be a watershed moment in the history of ODI cricket – for many had had their chances but failed to capitalise on it. Long ago in 1997, Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar fell on 194 against India with still enough time left to reach the milestone. In 2000 too, Sri Lankan dynamite Sanath Jayasuriya failed to score off the remaining 11 in two overs remaining to be bowled. A few months before Tendulkar finally realised the dream, an unheralded Zimbabwe opener Charles Coventry failed to keep himself on strike for the last over to gather nine runs that were necessary to pocket the record. Tendulkar himself had fallen short of the dodging deed when a muscle pull forced him a painful early retirement on 163 (5 overs still remaining) against New Zealand.
In the three-match ODI series in question, India won a thriller in the first game at Jaipur by a run and are looking to seal the issues at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior. On a Wednesday afternoon, Indian skipper MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat. The brothers-in-arms Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar opened the proceedings – with the former falling in the fourth over of the innings. Dinesh Karthik was sent at one-down and he ensured to make the most of the opportunity.
South Africa had a sound bowling attack – with Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell, Charl Langeveldt and skipper Jacques Kallis manning the pace department with able support from Roelof van der Merwe and part-timer Jean Paul Duminy with the spin. However, Tendulkar and Karthik took on the bowling and India crossed 100 in the 15th over – the Little Master completing his half-century in 37 balls. Ensuring Tendulkar did get the majority of the strike, Karthik too brought his own fifty in 59 deliveries. On the 28th over of the innings, Tendulkar nudged a single off Duminy to complete his 46th ODI (93rd overall) century. The hundred came off in 90 deliveries – studded with 13 fours. Later on, the Master Blaster lofted the same off-break bowler for his first individual six of the day.
The duo kept on piling up the runs at a good pace to ensure the Indian 200 in the 31st over. However two overs later, Parnell came in for a change and removed the Tamil Nadu batsman on his individual career-best score of 79. The second-wicket added 194 runs. Joined in by Yusuf Pathan who kept on playing his explosive shots, Tendulkar too played his own to smash Parnell for a boundary to bring up his 150 off 118 balls. At the end of 40 overs, India reached 286 – and soon after, the man-in-form smacked two sixes in successive overs off Langeveldt and Merwe respectively. While Pathan departed with India just crossing 300, skipper Dhoni came in with less than nine overs to go.
At the end of 43 overs, Tendulkar had already made 186 and was starting to look a bit jaded. On the other side, Dhoni just came in and had played a couple of balls to warm him up. With a couple of hits, Dhoni ensured India reach 350 in the 46th over and started sledge-hammering an already hapless South African attack in pursuit for a 400. Meanwhile, Tendulkar started cramping but kept on adding to his tally with occasional singles and doubles.
With Dhoni taking most of the strikes himself, Tendulkar did not at all get the strike at the 49th over bowled by Steyn – in which the skipper squeezed out 17 runs. Dhoni himself kept the strike for the final over by picking up a single off the last delivery. In a span of half-an-hour, the 200 which looked just a matter of time was still left unaccomplished with balls running out fast. After a six off the first ball from Langeveldt, Dhoni restricted himself to a single and finally the man – who had been locked on 199 for the last few minutes – almost limping to take strike.
Not hitting a single boundary from just 13 balls on strike in the last 7 overs, the long-reigning ODI king added another diamond to his crown when finally he picked up a single off the third ball of the final over for his 200th run of the innings. At the commentary box, Ravi Shastri famously remarked – “The first man on the planet to reach 200 and it’s the superman from India. SACHIN TENDULKAR. Take a bow, master.” He was complemented by former New Zealand cricketer Danny Morrison with “Aw, you little champion. If there was anyone deserving to break this milestone, this Everest, it is certainly Sachin Tendulkar.” Dhoni finished off the innings in style as India put up a mammoth total of 401.
Seven years have passed since that day, and four more batsmen have reached the Everest of 200 – with another Mumbaikar and Indian opener Rohit Sharma scaling up the peak twice.
South Africa were never quite there in the chase – AB de Villiers top-scoring with an unbeaten 114 followed by a distant second in 34 by Hashim Amla. With the Protean innings folding up inside 43 overs, India won the historic match by 153 runs – gaining an unassailable lead in the series.
Brief scores: India – 401/3 (50.0); South Africa – 248 (42.5)