Bangalore, Feb 27: Amid the rigmarole, chaos, drama and glory of the World Cup tie between India and England at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, one might tend to overlook two glowing achievements - the centuries of Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss. Of course, Strauss got his acknowledgement in the form of a Man of the Match Award, leaving the Little Master relatively empty-handed.
But both their roles for their respective sides was crucial in Sunday's encounter. Their deft strokeplay and masterful knack of transferring the pressure onto the fielding side by not allowing the bowlers to settle and picking runs at will and with such ease, is all testimant to their spectacular prowess as opening batsmen.
They both demonstrated superlative tenacity and resilience in laying the groundwork for their sides to launch out toward big totals. Tendulkar was a study in brilliance and genius. He initially played a subdued role to his partner Virender Sehwag's pyro-technics, settling in quietly, studying and adapting to the conditions. Then when the Sehwag got out, he gladly accepted the mantle of aggressor.
After flaying the bowling off the fast bowlers, he warded off the threat posed by Paul Collingwood's annoying little medium pacers, by launching a couple of his deliveries into space. Those defining moments of his innings came in the 18th and 22nd overs. That was followed up by an assault on England's most fiercely-touted deadly weapon - Graeme Swann, sending him for two consecutive sixes in the 27th over.
He turned on poor James Anderson as well, twice in the match striking him for two consecutive boundaries. The couplets of fours came in the 9th and 29th overs. But one could argue that Anderson had the last laugh when he eventually got Tendular to edge a ball to the covers and depart on his tremendous score of 120 off 115 balls. It was an innings of class and temperament, but also of hard-work as more than 80 per cent of his runs came from singles.
Andrew Strauss played a similar role to Tendulkar's, although he was aggressive right from the get-go. He set the tone of the English innings by striking Zaheer Khan for a four off the first and last ball of the first over. Then by constantly taking the fight to the opposition and according them no let-up, he ended up demoralising them for most of the time that he held sway.
Strauss' inning which was punctuated with 18 fours came at the rate of one almost every other over, as he shrewdly and defiantly kept the momentum going for his side. He smothered the spin of Piyush Chawla on numerous occasions, maneouvered the field and warded off any threat to his wicket, till ofcourse he finally perished to a resurgent Zaheer Khan. Strauss deserves to be the proud new owner of the highest individual score by an English batsman in World Cup cricket.