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2nd ODI: Pakistan v India, 16 Mar 2004 [Scorecard]

Sachin Tendulkar: A perennially tragic centurion

Too often it has been said that Sachin Tendulkar centuries don't win games for India. That he cannot see a game through to a victorious end. That he falls just when the going gets tough, and that India then predictably meander to a loss.

Can Rawalpindi 2004 be counted as just another such game? It had all the makings of one - a steep target, a floodlit, frenetic atmosphere, potentially dangerous bowling, and unsupportive fellow batsmen. Out of India's final total of 317, Tendulkar made 141, shepherding the chase from Over 1 to Over 38.4, when he was fatally done in by Shoaib Malik.

When Tendulkar was dismissed, India were 245 for four, a strong enough position for the final assault in the slog overs. In hot, floodlit conditions, Tendulkar's 141 cannot be considered any mean feat. It came off 135 balls and contained 17 fours - a mixture of the sparkling and the serendipitious - and one powerful six. Few foundations could have been as impressive.

Tendulkar's own recent form made the knock even more special. Even as Virender Sehwag at the other end set about the bowling with breezy nonchalance, Tendulkar seemed determined to rotate the strike, get his feet moving and his eye in. Pakistan's bowlers, even then, could have sensed a foreboding of a big innings.

Soon, the runs started to flow in typical Tendulkarine vein. In a 69-run stand with Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly made just 15. In the 15 overs between Ganguly's dismissal and Tendulkar's, India jogged comfortably along at seven runs an hour, most of those Tendulkar's doing. Without losing his head, he had hit up just less than half of India's needed runs, and given them 12 overs to play around with to boot.

But no man is an island. India's remaining batsmen, on this particular evening, were clearly unequal to the task of reconciling pressure and talent. Judicious strokes flew out of the window; panic set in. Pakistan, sniffing blood, moved in for the kill, and once Mohammad Sami had castled Rahul Dravid, the match, to all intents and purposes, was in Pakistan's pocket.

Between Sehwag, Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, four of India's top five batsmen made 81 runs between them. In a chase of 330, that was simply not enough. Tendulkar's 141, on the other hand, should have been more than enough; that it wasn't can certainly not be pinned on him.


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