#10: Christchurch – 163*(133) vs New Zealand 2009
Christchurch, New Zealand was the venue for the 3rd ODI in March 2009, where India was to clash with the kiwis after being 1-0 up in the series. Sachin had produced a very effective 2008 year in ODIs and was integral part of India’s success in Australia CB Series. Later in that year he wrote off the failures against Sri Lanka with highly successful series against Australia and a wonderful ton at Chennai against England in a huge chase of 387. He was keen on continuing his rich form in the kiwiland. He began the tour with scores of 20 and 61 in the first two games.
AMI Stadium had shorter square boundaries that tempted Sehwag to cut early and he ended up playing on. Gambhir (15) put on 50 with Sachin for the 2nd wicket, but was caught behind. This brought Yuvraj in the middle. Sachin wasn’t getting temped by short boundaries instead kept busy with scoring in drives and pacing his innings beautifully. In no time both the batsmen were well set and took the 3rd power play at the right time. Yuvraj suddenly shifted to the Top gear and the pair smashed 68 runs of 5 power-play overs. Yuvraj clobbered 44 of 17 while Sachin racked up 24 of just 13 during this phase.
On the last ball of 36th over Sachin turned one slightly behind square for a single that brought up his 43rd ODI ton. After that it was no looking back In the next 9 overs Sachin shifted momentum tremendously and thumped the ball all around the park for 63 runs in mere 32 deliveries. His innings thus far included 21 hits to the fence, five of which were for maximum. Had Tendulkar batted on there was every chance he would have become the first double-centurion in ODI cricket. He needed 37 more at that point and if physically possible, Tendulkar would have tried his best.
Midway during his knock he started struggling with a sore muscle where he was hit in the abs in the previous game. When he was around 65 to 70, he started feeling stiffness there, but towards the latter half of his innings he starting getting a twitch and it kept getting worse. There came a stage when he couldn’t go on and retired hurt at 163* (133). Sachin later said he was hopeful of getting a double-century towards the end of India’s innings, while Brendon McCullum, New Zealand’s stand-in captain, said only when Tendulkar walked off did it seem out of reach.
It was New-Zealand where almost 15 years ago he had reinvented himself as an ODI opener, however in next two subsequent tours he could never reach the magical triple digits in ODIs. He had finally filled that void with a marvelous ton that almost resulted into first double hundred in ODIs. While Tendulkar wouldn’t rate this against some of his other hundreds and claimed that when you are making runs it gives you happiness. A last word on the quality of the knock should go the captain who was at the receiving end. “I can hardly remember a shot that didn’t come out of the middle,” McCullum said. “There were times as well that he played with half a blade and hit in areas that he precisely wanted to. I don’t think I have seen too many better innings, in any form of the game.”
Dhoni-Raina blitz in the end ensured India a huge score of 392, however, New Zealand began a brilliant counter attack with opening pair of Ryder-McCullum racking up 166 in 22 and only a run-out could break that partnership. A mini collapse followed with next 7 wickets falling for 85 runs in 16 overs, and just when it looked all lost Southee and Millls added 83 in 7 overs giving India a scare. Praveen kumar’s timely breakthrough ensured India’ victory by 58 runs in the 46th over of the chase. Sachin was still in the pain and had to sit in the dressing room as India struggled to defend 392, but eventually did! However, what brought him cheer was when he was asked if this was the best batting line-up he had been a part of. “I would definitely say so,” came the answer.
Of course this was definitely the best batting line up in ODIs with Sachin-Viru at the top, Gautam-Yuvi in the middle and quality finishers like Dhoni & Raina. Sachin even at the age of 36 displayed that he could almost last the entire innings and was nearly on the cusp of creating yet another history!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav