March 1 is a special day in Indian cricket. On this day in 2003, Sachin Tendulkar pulverised Pakistani pace attack during the World Cup in South Africa. The Master Blaster's 75-ball 98 is one of the greatest One Day International knocks.
On the 10th year of that special innings, let us rewind to that day.
The setting was SuperSport Park in Centurion. All the seats at the stadium were taken. The action was set to begin and before this high-voltage clash, both India and Pakistan teams lined up and national anthems were played. Since it is India-Pakistan game, traditions don't matter. Players shook hands before the match rather than after.
Pakistan captain Waqar Younis won the toss and chose to bat. This was a Pool A match and it was the most awaited of the World Cup with tickets sold out well in advance.
Pakistan rode on opener Saeed Anwar's 20th ODI hundred (101) to post a healthy 273/7 in 50 overs. Left-arm pacemen Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra took two wickets apiece.
The target of 274 was not looking big but Pakistan had the best fast bowling line-up in Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. That score looked tall with this trio's presence. But Indian batsmen too were upto the challenge and history was with them.
Pakistan had never beaten India in a World Cup and in a few hours later that record remained intact.
About 22,000 spectators at the ground and millions on TV got ready to watch India's chase. Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag walked out to the middle.
Akram bowled the first over and Tendulkar was on strike. After two dot balls, Tendulkar was under way with a boundary and added another four on the last ball of the over. The signs were ominous.
In came Akhtar for the next over. It began the worst day for the right-am speedster. Tendulkar smashed him for a 6, 4 and 4 on the last three deliveries. That six over point is still talked about. It was superb shot from one of the greatest batsmen against the fastest bowler at the time.
Tendulkar reserved special treatment for Akhtar and Waqar on that day. Tendulkar ransacked 27 in 13 balls from Waqar and from Akhtar's 12 he hit 22. Only Wasim was spared with 18 off 21 balls.
Also in one of Wasim's overs, Abdul Razzaq spilled a Tendulkar catch at mid-off and the bowler was clearly upset and was seen having a few harsh words to the fielder. Later it was reported that Wasim asked Razzaq "Do you know who's catch you have dropped?." Tendulkar was on 32 then and it was his day.
India's chase was entirely built on Tendulkar's knock. Right from the start, he was aggressive. He had come out with a plan - a move to attack the bowlers.
During the course of his innings, Tendulkar was hampered by cramps. But after receiving treatment on the ground, he was back on his feet to smash the ball all around the ground.
There were flicks, straight drives, cuts and the crowd enjoyed every shot that Tendulkar played. He was at his best against the arch rivals.
Tendulkar's assault powered India to 150 runs by the 21st over. In that era before the arrival of Twenty20s, such run rate was rare. But when Tendulkar is in the mood, bowlers will have to suffer.
Battling pain in his left leg, Tendulkar had just called for a runner but was soon sent back to the pavilion by a peach of a delivery from Akhtar. A ball that rared from length, Tendulkar only managed to fend it off to Younis Khan.
By the time Tendulkar departed at 177/4 in the 28th over, India were on course. They further needed 97 from more than 22 overs.
Indian fans were stunned for a minute at Tendulkar's dismissal but soon rose to applaud the Master for one of the memorable innings in a World Cup.
Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh ensured that Tendulkar's sublime batting efforts counted as they took India home in the 46th over.
India recorded their fourth win over Pakistan in World Cups and remained unbeaten against old foes.
Tendulkar might have fallen short by two runs for his century in Centurion but 98 runs were more than worth a hundred.
Happy 10th Anniversary to that Sachin Special.