Sachin Tendulkar was at his majestic best in Sharjah

'Sandstorm' century against Australia described as 'best ever' by Shastri

Cricket fans in the UAE were fortunate to witness Sachin Tendulkar at the peak of his career during a tri-series in Sharjah in 1998.

The just retired master blaster played two of his most memorable one-day innings at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium against Australia.

He hit back-to-back centuries almost single-handedly to take India into the finals and was at his majestic best on his 25th birthday.

In the league game, India were under pressure after Australia had put up a massive 283 runs.

India needed to win the match to qualify for the finals of the Coca Cola Cup or end up 30 runs short of the Australian total in order to get a back door entry into the finals and pip New Zealand.

After losing four quick wickets a struggling VVS Laxman joined Tendulkar and the Indians seemed to be staring defeat in the face, needing more than a run a ball in the remaining 20 odd overs.

A massive sandstorm came in from nowhere to add to the confusion and interrupted the game for about half an hour.

The target was readjusted and India needed to get 237 in 46 overs and the asking rate became more steep since India were asked to get 94 runs in 87 balls.

But before he resumed his innings Tendulkar assured Indian team coach Anshuman Gaekwad by saying, "Don't worry, I'll be there till the end."

Such was his confidence and determination, he smashed the first ball off Michael Kasprowicz for a six and then almost like a man posessed made 143, taking India into the finals of the Coca-Cola Cup.

Former Indian skipper turned commentator Ravi Shastri dubbed what has been described as the 'Sandstorm' innings as "the best innings he has ever played".

India lost the match by 20 odd runs but that brilliant knock helped India have one more crack at the Aussies in the finals on Sachin Tendulkar's birthday two days later on April 24.

The crowds at the Sharjah, had come with banners wishing Tendulkar a happy 25th birthday along with their intense desire to see him play another one of those blinders and take India to victory.

Tendulkar didn't disappoint them.

Australia had put up a huge target of 273 and that meant India had quite a chase on their hands.

Before the Indian innings began, Australian commentator Greg Chappell made a telling comment.

He said: "Sachin will be feeling just a little bit drained from his previous effort and the weight of the entire Indian population will be on his young shoulders."

He was right but Tendulkar went about his task with clinical precision and made 134. He unleashed some of his breathtaking strokes and power only after he had ensured that India were well on the road to victory.

After depositing Aussie paceman Michael Kasprowicz on to the roof of the Sharjah stadium, noted TV commentator Tony Greig said, "This little man is the nearest thing to Bradman there's ever been."

Tendulkar ended up sweeping almost all the awards after India emerged victorious. He also won an Opel Astra for his efforts at Sharjah an award which he dedicated to his wife, on his 25th birthday.


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