Sachin Tendulkar’s 154 ODI wickets might not put him in the all-rounder category, but the legendary Indian batsman was a handy bowler used quite often as a breakthrough bowler in his heydays.
A teenager who stepped into the MRF Pace Foundation in the hope of becoming a fast bowler, Tendulkar’s career took a remarkable u-turn few anticipated after Dennis Lillee advised him to focus on his batting skills. What happened since is history, but Tendulkar did not totally give up on his dream.
He went from bowling handy medium pace to bowling a mix of off and leg spin in his career. It yielded 201 international wickets, but it’s crazy still to imagine Tendulkar holding a bowling record in the death overs in ODI cricket.
Yet, he does and a stunning one at that: Tendulkar is the only bowler in ODI history to defend six or less runs in the final over of the game more than once!
Too good to be true? Yet, remarkably, it isn’t one from the rumour mill, and Tendulkar has indeed done this twice, and both came in multi-nation tournaments.
1993 Hero Cup semi-final v South Africa, Kolkata
In the 1993 Hero Cup semi-final, South Africa were left to chase 196 after a 90 from Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin and stumbled to 145-7 with Brian McMillan holding fort from one end. Dave Richardson and McMillan put together a valiant stand for the eighth wicket to take South Africa close. The Proteas needed six to win off the final over, and Azharuddin, to many’s surprise, turned to Tendulkar to silence McMillan. Fanie de Villiers was run out off the first ball as McMillan attempted a risky second run and it brought Allan Donald on strike.
Tendulkar, bowling his rejected medium pacers, bowled three dots on the trot to bring India right back into the context. Even though Donald got off strike off the penultimate ball, he left McMillan to score four off the last ball to win the game. Just a run came off the final ball as Tendulkar brought the Eden crowd to its feet.
1996 Titan Cup v Australia, Chandigarh
The 1996 Titan Cup game against Australia saw Tendulkar the death overs bowler unleashed again. After a 61-ball 62 at the top had laid the platform for India’s middle-order — a ravishing 94 from Azharuddin and a half-century from Rahul Dravid — to help the side to 289. Mark Taylor’s 78 opening the batting and Michael Slater’s quickfire fifty helped Australia stay on course.
At 241-4, Australia looked to be easing themselves to a win when they lost a flurry of wickets in quick succession. When Slater was trapped in front, Australia had lost their third wicket in the space of nine runs. 250-7 quickly turned into 273-9 at the end of the 48th over. With India’s frontline bowlers bowled out after the penultimate over by Venkatesh Prasad, Azharuddin turned to Tendulkar, yet to bowl in the match, to defend six runs in the final over with Australia having just one wicket left.
Off the first ball of the final over, Hogg attempted a quick single after trying to scoop past the keeper, but Nayan Mongia passed the ball to Tendulkar who ran him out at the non-striker’s end to give India a win.
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