#13: Mumbai – 90(84) vs Australia WC96
Sachin had announced himself in the tour of Australia in both formats of the game and was India’s outstanding batsman in ’92 edition of the World Cup. Four years later, he had commanded much more respect, was now the undoubtedly the most explosive opening batsman in the shorter version of the game, and had an aura surrounding him. Team India’s hopes though were again pinned on Tendulkar and his performance with the bat. He responded to the weight of expectations as one would have thought and scored an unbeaten ton and a match winning 70 in the first two games. As India came head to head with Australia, both teams were still undefeated and a gripping encounter was on cards.
Australia was favorites to win the championship based on their recent performance since the last edition. India of course were favorites for two main reasons: being hosts and having Sachin in their side. Game was set at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on the 19th day of March. With Australia conceding their game against Sri Lanka citing a security reason, it became a must win for the visitors. Captain Taylor called it right and opted to bat first. Opening attack wasn’t threatening and Australia built on a century stand for the first wicket. India struck some blows in the middle over but Mark Waugh led Australia to a dominating position with a ton. However, India put on brakes in the final overs, with Prasad’s last over producing 4 wickets, Australia were restricted to 258.
259 was a formidable yet gettable score, however required a solid start. India was going in with a forced change of Siddhu injured being replaced by Manjrekar. There was a lot of debate as to who should come at one down position. Manjrekar would have been ideal choice, but team management decided to go with Kambli. McGrath started with immaculate accuracy and three maidens, the built up pressure resulted in equally accurate Fleming strike twice in his first two overs and just like that India was struggling at 2/7. The first 8 overs only produced 20 runs, but Tendulkar hit three fours off McGrath’s fifth over, and blazed from 12 to 56 in 25 balls, with seven fours and one six. When Fleming bowled Azharuddin (10) India had reached 70 in just 12th over.
Tendulkar started off with risky shots, attacked McGrath, Fleming, and was severe on Warne, even survived as one miscued hit loomed over diving Law as he got his fingertips but couldn’t grasp it. Soon he steadied himself and team India. Warne came back after conceding 10 of his first over and applied brakes to scoring, but Sachin-Sanjay kept tucking away. They built a Solid 73 runs stand and the game was in the grasps. With Tendulkar blazing all four cylinders no one could write India off. In no time Sachin reach 90 (84) with 14 fours and a six, and yet another fabulous ton was just around the corner.
In a desperate move, after trying all his options, Taylor tossed the ball to Mark Waugh. Sight off a part-time off spinner coming on delighted the little man and he stepped out in a pre-determined fashion like bull running towards red cloth. Waugh turned to be cleverer of the two as he saw little master stepping out and bowled a wide way out of his reach on the off side, Healy made no mistake and a breezy masterful knock was abruptly ended leaving the stunned Mumbaikar crowd absolutely silenced!!
Mongia-Manjrekar fought hard with half century stand; however, Warne broke that stand. Fleming cleaned Kumble, his fifth victim, to leave India 16 runs short with 2 overs still left. This wonderful knock from little master went in the books as one more lost cause. Barring Manjrekar and to some extent Mongia no one showed the drive to win the game and 259 turned to be a little too much for little champion to get it all by himself. The knock came against all odds, with team in shatters, facing a huge ask, and against the top class bowling attack. McGrath had begun with three maidens and ended up giving 48 of his next 5 overs. Sachin’s knock was full of style, flamboyance, and punch. Team India could have done with just a little more support on the other side to see them through.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav