India and England's players congratulate each other after a thrilling tie

The end of the match that refused to end

© Getty Images

20 Greatest ODIs: No. 11

The battle of Bangalore

Over a hundred overs and 676 runs, two teams slugged it out and collapsed to the carpet at the same time

Sharda Ugra  |  

India vs England, World Cup, Bangalore, 2011

Match tied

It is like that six happened 15 minutes ago. That's how sharp it is in the memory. In a match that produced 676 runs, the bulk of them on either side from two batters of gleaming pedigree, to still remember a six by a No. 10? Who wasn't even a star, past, present or future. Who went on to face only four more balls in his international career after he hit that six - which could be called the shot that sealed the match.

Well, almost. It didn't really seal it, but what it did was ensure that defeat wouldn't break down his team's door or victory come swaggering through for the hosts.

The shot came with 11 required off four balls with two wickets left after England's tailenders launched an unexpected charge that left the crowd screaming - over what they had seen, over having emotional torrents poured onto them ball after ball, not knowing where the match would go.

Watching that shot on a highlights video today, even with RJ Shastri commentating, does not recreate even a smidgen of what it felt like on the night. It doesn't show the emphatic arc of the ball in the air, sharp against Chinnaswamy's indigo sky, hundreds of Indian faces looking upwards in dismay and anguish because of where it was going to land and what that meant.

From 11 off four to five off three.

India's first match at home in the 2011 World Cup, following a pulping of Bangladesh in Mirpur, it was going to come down to this - defeat to England - after scoring 338?

Ajmal Shahzad produced a bazooka strike off the first ball he faced. Front leg out of the way, stance open for havoc, he whacked Munaf Patel straight down the ground, over long-on, right of the press box, where we sat watching. That one stroke puts England within a shot of victory.

Which three balls later was not victory for either side but only the fourth tied match across more than nine editions of the men's World Cup.

Which shouldn't actually have been a tie. But for a desperate non-striker's teeny-margin error, it would have spelt victory for India instead.

Which, however, would have not elevated this fixture to where it is today, on this fine list.

Before Bangalore 2011, India and England had never tied an ODI. Months later in September, they tied a second time - on Duckworth-Lewis - but since 2011, never again.

There was much that was karmic about this game for it to merely tick an early-fixture box in India's first home World Cup after 15 years. Its dead-heat finish after a lavish spread of quality with the bat and fightback by ball burnished the contest to a point of lustre that still lasts.

Just over a week into the tournament, over the course of eight hours, the tie sounded a warning bell. Not least for hosts India, who received a shakedown after their confident decimation of Bangladesh. "It made us humble," the team's mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton was to say later. And for England, who had started weak against Ireland but left the Chinnaswamy baring teeth and muscle. And for every other team watching from out of the corner of their eye.

There was an inevitability about Tendulkar's calibrated takedown of England's bowlers. And most alarmingly for the partisan home crowd, also in Strauss' nerveless, unhurried pursuit of the total

It was the kind of match that six weeks later MS Dhoni talked about as the reason he was in love with the 50-over stoush - because it was Test match cricket compressed into 100 overs. The white-ball form that Geoff Boycott declared, "helps craftsmen play". The craftsmen that Boycott was referring to were, of course, batters, and Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss provided a two-for-one batting masterclass in how to construct ODI hundreds. But what balanced the contest and cranked up temperatures was how the bowlers on both sides responded to onslaughts with late-spell comebacks.

India vs England, Bangalore, 2011 had everything for everyone - the classicists, the one-eyed fans, big-hit junkies and drama gourmands.

The two centuries - Tendulkar's 47th in ODIs, Strauss' sixth - formed the core of each innings. There was an inevitability about Tendulkar's calibrated takedown of England's bowlers, particularly leading lights James Anderson and Graeme Swann. And most alarmingly for the partisan home crowd, also in Strauss' nerveless, unhurried pursuit of the total. On a night that featured noise and a "shout meter" on the scoreboard, these two centurions were artisans at work.

Tendulkar the relentless creator of a sizeable target, picked up pace without risk, his first boundary scored in only the ninth over, his first six in the 18th, letting Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir set about the fireworks. There was nothing flash about Strauss' innings either - very English and precise for the most part, as he chipped away, matching deeds to the words he had uttered to his team-mates at the break: "Lads, that's an unbelievably flat wicket, we can chase this."

Tendulkar's shots brought the house down, Strauss' sent them into sombre silence as England inched ahead. Yet what turned this match from a routine story of a big innings creating a giant total and an even bigger innings chasing it down into an epic was the mayhem after Tendulkar and Strauss left the scene.

Tendulkar departed in the 39th over and by the end of the 45th, India were 292 for 3, set for a wild push in the last 30 balls. Except, the innings teetered an over later, with Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni falling off successive balls. Three more Indian batters were dispatched by Tim Bresnan in four balls in the 49th. India's big bang send-off ended in a clatter of wickets.

The eventual total, though, still looked good or as ESPNcricinfo's commentary memorably read: "England need 339 to win. Otherwise known as a miracle." Which Strauss went about making to his job to manifest for more than 40 overs, as if he were Charlton "Moses" Heston parting the Red Sea. Three of the four Indian spinners went for more than a run a ball against him. Yusuf Pathan was reverse-swept, to widespread astonishment. Strauss' 170-run partnership with Ian Bell put the miracle within reach.

For over 25 overs, the scoreboard moved smoothly, the Indians failing to shake or rattle. With eight overs left, England needed 59, eight wickets in hand. Naturally, they called for their batting powerplay. Remember those? Basically code for "now the batting side is going to lose its marbles".

Shahzad sends his first ball packing

Shahzad sends his first ball packing © AFP

Then came Zaheer Khan, he of the darkened brow, for a reversing second spell that laid waste to England's plans. He cleaned out Bell, who was looking to go hard and fast at the target, and Strauss in successive balls. When a vicious late-swinging yorker ended Strauss' innings, I was told men tore off their shirts and flung chairs around in riotous, celebratory relief in the H Stand, lower level, always packed with Bangalore's cricketing cognoscenti. Zaheer and the crowd worked in tandem. Paul Collingwood was bowled on the charge out in his next over, and England's asking rate started flashing code red again.

Just like India, England were imploding after coasting towards the target. Their top six were lopped off halfway through over No. 46, four wickets gone in 18 balls.

Just when it looked as if the game was going to end the way it was expected to, came a savage 15-run attack by Bresnan and Swann on Piyush Chawla in the 49th over. Still, when Chawla got Bresnan off his final ball, getting 14 off the last over seemed too far-fetched even in an English imagination.

The H Stand and the rest of Chinnaswamy exhaled. It was going to be India's night, after all. The No. 10 was walking in, 25, yes, but a new, raw international. Well played, England, and all that, but that's enough now.

Except, it wasn't. Except, the match wasn't over.

First ball, Shahzad hit that six whose memory reverberates to this day. He then clambered across as Swann called the bye to get strike.

With four to win, they take three. The game ends, we are spent. That six has left us.

One more thing: the tie was almost not a tie. On the very last ball of the Indian innings, with four wickets having fallen in 11 balls - an absolute mudslide of a collapse of 7 for 33 in all - Zaheer was run-out, desperately trying to complete a scrambled second. Turns out his partner, the equally athletic Munaf, had not grounded his bat inside the line when sprinting for the first. The total was recalculated - one fewer for England to chase.

Who bowled that last over for India when England tied? Of course, Munaf.

Sharda Ugra is a sportswriter