#17: Nagpur – 111 (101) vs South Africa WC2011
India’s World Cup campaign was on course with first four games and no losses. Still it appeared like something was missing. They won all the games that they were supposed to, but somehow tied the one in Bangalore against England, even after scoring 338. Captain Mahi demanded greater contributions from the top three batters and they delivered, however, by the end of the day Dhoni was deeply disappointed in rest of his line up and didn’t mince any words about it.
March 12 at Nagpur was a perfect day for ODI cricket. The VCA ground was big and par score was around 320. India won the crucial toss and opted to have a first go at the wicket with the willow. The top order fired and took India to a commanding position of 267/1 in 40th over. With 10 overs still to go a 350 wasn’t far fetched and that’s where it all went wrong. In an attempt to score 20-30 runs over a par score, India not only ended up with about 20-25 short, but neither did last full 50 overs.
Despite all the disappointments, there was one ray of hope – It was Sachin’s second ton in three games, both of them came against big opponents (England & South Africa). This innings set up the tempo for Sachin and India’s top order that actually carried through the knock out stages. Sachin played crucial knocks in QFs and Semis, while Gambhir was vital in QFs and Finals. Sehwag took wind out of Pakistan attack with a blitz in the Semis that set the tone. The foundation of all this was laid at Nagpur vs South Africa.
Sachin had decent starts against the minnows in the division, however, couldn’t convert them into big scores. But against England he got 120 (110) and today he smashed 111 (101). Both the knocks took us down the memory lane, as he dominated the bowlers and kept unsettling their rhythm. His approach was aggressive and assertive at the same time. He went for the long haul, but never let the bowlers have control.
Sachin along with Viru deflated the Protean attack as they jettisoned to 142 in just 18 overs. Gambhir then built on the opening stand along with Sachin to add another 125 by the time innings reached its 40th over mark. Sachin hit 8 crisp boundaries and 3 hits over the fence. They were really severe on Steyn (46 of his 7) and Morkel (56 of his 7). The stage was set for the rest of the batting order to dominate, however, as Dhoni stated in his post-match conference, they chose to play to the gallery.
This ton from Tendulkar (along with the one at Bangalore vs England) was the building blocks of India’s winnings campaign. Yes, they couldn’t result in team India’s victory, however, taught the team bigger lessons and got them tournament ready for the knock out stages. The self retrospections of the India team after this loss resulted in them peaking at the right time, and also keeping a calm nerve in two huge chases against Australia and Sri Lanka. Sachin went on to become the highest run getter of the tournament for India and second best of the tournament, and was the most significant contributor towards India making it to the Finals.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav