Sachin Tendulkar in action against Pakistan during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 semi final match at PCA Stadium.
Having grown up on the Centurion classic of the 2003 World Cup, the Indian fans watched in disbelief as Sachin Tendulkar struggled against his old foes on the same stage.
Four dropped catches, a revoked leg before decision and a close stumping chance --- it was not an innings one normally sees from the Little Master. The legend's 115-ball effort in the semifinal against Pakistan on Wednesday will go down as one of his most painstaking efforts in an otherwise glorious career.
Memory fails to recollect the last time Tendulkar looked so ill at ease at the crease as at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium during the knock of 85.
Known for his strokeplay, the masterful touch eluded Tendulkar, but nevertheless it was an invaluable effort at a time when the team was under tremendous pressure.
With the Pakistan bowlers making inroads at the other end, Tendulkar's early wicket would have pushed India completely on the back-foot.
He started fluently, off-driving and square-driving Wahab Riaz with aplomb and cover-driving Abdul Razzaq. Strangely, he lost his timing and control when the spinners came on. He was dropped thrice off skipper Shahid Afridi, once off Mohd Hafeez, given out leg before off Saeed Ajmal before winning a DRS appeal and was an inch away from being stumped off the offie.
The bowler to trouble him the most was Ajmal. He had Tendulkar guessing by mixing up his straighter one, doosra and the off-spinner.
It was in contrast to the way Tendulkar had played against Pakistan in the Super Eights battle at the Centurion eight years ago. He was younger and had come out with the objective of destroying the attack. The back-foot punches, the on-the-rise drives, square-cuts and flicks were a sight to behold.
It was in the fitness of things that Tendulkar did not get his century on Wednesday because he wouldn't have liked to mark the epic landmark with a mediocre innings. It would have taken the sheen off the milestone. But, to his team's cause, the effort was priceless.
It was an innings which will be remembered more for the control Tendulkar exercised over his mind to keep going.
To the seasoned campaigner's credit, at the risk of looking ungainly, he did not try to hit his way out of trouble. He fought it out, hung in there to win the battle of mind over matter.