WC 2003 - Sachin~~s intimidation of Pak bowlers was heady stuff!

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Some bowlers intimidate batsmen but it is a rare genius who intimidates bowlers as Sachin Tendulkar did in the high-voltage match against Pakistan when his competitive juices were flowing. It was heady stuff!And India will now take much more than just the points from its impressive six-wicket win against its traditional rivals through to the business end of this World Cup.India booked its passage through to the Super Six stage and the win on Saturday continued the revival of the team since the demoralising defeat by the Australians at the start of the tournament.In this form Ganguly and his team are capable of beating anyone but they must believe in themselves and be prepared to play with the freedom they have shown in recent matches.Pakistan has yet to win a World Cup match against India and if it is to do so it needs to develop some subtlety to go with the sledge-hammer approach. Full frontal assault has not done the trick for it so far.Thankfully it was a day game because Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat on an excellent batting wicket. Nehra for one found conditions very different from those experienced at Kingsmead the other evening. Saeed Anwar continued with his love affair of Indian bowling in One-day cricket with an innings that started tentatively but grew into the more assured and elegant version of Anwar that we have come to know and appreciate. When he was finally bowled in the 41st over by a near perfect Nehra yorker, Anwar had anchored the Pakistan innings and had set the solid foundation for its total of 273 for seven.Rashid Latif did a fine job in the last 10 overs to ensure a competitive total while Wasim Akram played some lusty shots at the end to complete a frustrating day for Nehra. The total of 273 would have been excellent had it been a night game but as conditions were not going to change in the afternoon Pakistan will have felt uneasy about the Indian top order, especially Tendulkar. The other thing that has to be noted is that grounds in South Africa are generally on the small side and Centurion is one of the smaller grounds of the World Cup rotation. A score of 270 in 50 overs here would only be seen as par.For me, the prospect of the Pakistan pace attack challenging the immense skills of Tendulkar and his look alike Virender Sehwag was an exciting proposition.Early wickets were always going to be important for Pakistan to make the score resemble 300, so Waqar Younis decided to go with his big guns Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram. For India to win it would probably take someone to make 100 so Tendulkar would have loomed large in the sights of the Pakistani pace trio. The scene was set for a classic confrontation and whoever won the first round was going to take a huge step toward winning the game and getting through to the next stage in good shape. The loser may well be consigned to an early exit. The showdown got away to an explosive start. Neither Akram nor Shoaib had a chance to settle in before Tendulkar struck the first psychological blows by despatching both bowlers to various parts of the ground.Tendulkar heaved a big six over third man in Shoaib's first over and the young fast bowler looked unnerved. Everybody's pace had quickened and the adrenalin was racing.Wasim brought some sanity to the proceedings in his second over while Waqar replaced Shoaib after just one over. Sehwag proceeded to unsettle him by hitting his first delivery for an even bigger six over third man.The pace and bounce was suiting the aggression of the two Indian openers. Fire was being used to fight fire. The question was; which side was going to break first?10 runs per over was just the start India wanted and Pakistan was psychologically on the back foot. Wasim Akram has been as good with his craft as Tendulkar is with his and the old warhorse turned back the clock as he steamed in to deliver some fine deliveries. But conditions were in favour of the batting side and luck seemed to berunning their way. Good players though make their own luck, and Tendulkar pierced the field on both sides of the wicket with precision drives, pulls and cuts.Waqar responded to being hit behind square on the leg side from middle stump to bowling more to the off side only to see balls race through the covers. Errors of length were hurting the Pakistan pace bowlers as they strived for even more pace.Each time they erred, Tendulkar punished them. Sehwag finally fell to some clever bowling and good field placing as he chipped Waqar to extra cover. He may have also been sucked into the maelstrom of adrenalin sparked byTendulkar's brilliance.Ganguly strode to the crease. He needed to settle things with a cool head and feed the strike to the rampant Tendulkar. Ganguly didn't even have time to think about it as Rudi Koertzen adjudged him lbw to the first ball he faced. The bowling skipper had won the battle of the captains and had reclaimed some ground for the beleaguered Pakistan bowlers. The entertainment level was exceedingly high.Abdul Razzaq became the villain of the piece for Pakistan as he misjudged a catch from Tendulkar coming from a crude drive off the bowling of Wasim when Tendulkar was on 32. I bet I wasn't the only one who immediately thought of Herschelle Gibbs' muffed chance from Steve Waugh in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup. Was this going to prove as costly a miss for Pakistan? Kaif was promoted ahead of Mongia in the Indian batting order and he set about doing what his captain would have wanted done. He did not get too many opportunities himself, but he got to be a close spectator in the ongoing 'Tendulkar master-class.Pakistan proceeded to shoot itself in the foot as it bowled no bowls as the tide of the contest began to flow India's way. Its pace was working against Pakistan.Tendulkar eased back the throttle as Kaif joined in the merriment with some classy shots of his own. The body language suggested Pakistan was running out of ideas as well as belief. It had thrown its best punches but they were reeling from the body blows India had got in early.Shoaib soon lost the plot. Pace was certainly not working for him and he seemed devoid of a back-up plan. He began flailing like a drowning man in a raging torrent. Meanwhile, Kaif had dragged himself out of his ringside seat to join in the command performance. He played with a style and aplomb which suggests he is also a player of rare skill. We should see more of him in the future.At the first drinks break India was travelling at nearly nine runs per over and only a disaster would stop them from taking the honours. Afridi and Razzaq were the first attempts at subtlety and while they succeeded in slowing the march to victory it was as much a decision by Tendulkar that the killer punch had been landed and India only needed to remain standing to win the bout. Once Tendulkar and Kaif departed it was left to Dravid and Yuvraj Singh to see India home in what had been another in the Titanic contests between these two proud nations. PTI

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