England steal headlines from Tendulkar

England and Andrew Strauss did the unthinkable and stole the headlines from Sachin Tendulkar’s century in a World Cup game in India as the high-profile clash in Bangalore ended in a thrilling tie on Sunday.

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

The pulsating finish in Group B was only the fourth tie in World Cup history and brought the 2011 event roaring to life in front of 50 000 disbelieving people at Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Fans 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 had India’s home crowd both delighted and devastated as his brilliant 145-ball effort inspired his team to 338-8 off their 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.”

World Cup cricket at its best
Although it will probably do little to affect either country’s chances of reaching the quarterfinals, it will provide a timely warning to India of its bowling frailties.

Here, England proved that the co-host may need a little more than the world’s most powerful batting line-up if it is to end a near-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 seesawed again when fast bowler Zaheer Khan removed both dangermen, 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.

Sick SA
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.

As India hit a setback in its bid to claim the crown for the first time since 1983, fierce rivals Pakistan was playing up its chances a day after an 11-run win over much-fancied Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Saturday’s victory for a team burdened by recent off-field controversies led captain Shahid Afridi to pronounce that Pakistan should “definitely” be considered among the favourites now.

In New Delhi, contender South Africa’s progress—simple enough on the pitch so far—was complicated by a lengthy sick list as the squad returned to full training after a seven-wicket win over West Indies.

Team manager Mohammed Moosajee said the pollution in India’s capital had contributed to a respiratory infection for legspinner Imran Tahir, while batsmen AB de Villiers and JP Duminy and fast bowler Dale Steyn had picked up injuries.

All four should have recovered, Moosajee said, for South Africa’s next match in Group B against Netherlands on Thursday.

‘Must win’
Before that, the Netherlands and its South African-born batsman Ryan ten Doeschate will seek the first upset of the tournament when they play West Indies in a keenly anticipated Group B contest on Monday—although it will need to be some match to better India-England.

Still reeling from the loss of all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, West Indies could be a soft target for a Dutch team riding high after pushing England all the way last week.

“We’ll be using his [Bravo’s] injury as a form of motivation for us,” West Indies captain Darren Sammy said. “We must win against the Netherlands.”

Earlier, in Nagpur, Zimbabwe and Canada meet in Group A in what provides both teams with their best chance of a victory at the tournament.

However, every game at the World Cup is now likely to be compared to Game No 11, India vs England at Bangalore.—Sapa-AP

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