Monday, February 28, 2011

England, India tie in World Cup cricket classic

England stole the show, despite Sachin Tendulkar’s century in his home country, and Sunday’s high-profile World Cup cricket clash ended in a thrilling tie.

The sides served up one of the best World Cup matches ever as Andrew Strauss bettered Tendulkar’s sparkling innings and England matched India’s daunting 338 with a single by Graeme Swann off the final ball.

The pulsating finish was the fourth tie in World Cup history and brought the event roaring to life in front of 50,000 disbelieving fans at Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The crowd could hardly have asked for a better batting effort than Tendulkar’s sublime 120, but Strauss replied in stunning fashion with an ODI career-best 158. The England captain’s 145-ball effort inspired his team to 338-8 off 50 overs and, incredibly, a share of the spoils.

“In some ways we’re happy; in some ways we’re distraught,” Strauss said, “but a great game of cricket.”

Although it will probably do little to affect either country’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals, it will provide a timely warning to India of its bowling frailties. Here, England proved that the co-host may need more than the world’s most powerful batting lineup if it is to end a nearly 30-year wait for a World Cup triumph.

Among a host of records, Tendulkar became the first man to score five centuries at the World Cup, Strauss hit the highest World Cup score by an Englishman and the game provided the highest run aggregate — 676 — in a World Cup match, bettering the 671 runs Australia and South Africa produced in 2007.

Above all, it was World Cup cricket at its dramatic best as Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh (58) and Gautam Gambhir (51) put India well ahead before Strauss and Ian Bell (69) hit back with a 170-run stand.

The game see-sawed again when fast bowler Zaheer Khan removed both batsmen, in successive balls, before a flurry of sixes from tailenders Swann, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad set up the chance for England to scramble a tie off the very last ball. Swann poked it to the offside and raced down to the other end.

Unaware of what the game had in store, the crowd had earlier celebrated another record in a seemingly eternal list of milestones for the 37-year-old Tendulkar, whose hundred moved him ahead of Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Sourav Ganguly in the list of World Cup century-makers.

Tendulkar reached three figures with an effortless flick to fine leg for four off Bresnan (5-48), then raised his bat to acknowledge 100 for the 47th time in one-day internationals — also a record.

The only achievement missing for India’s batting master, now in his sixth World Cup, is a World Cup title.

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