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As Virender Sehwag bids adieu to cricket, I decided to pick his best ODI Hundred from the plenty of Match winning and memorable knocks he played in his career including the double Hundred against West Indies and his superlative twin hundreds which came against New Zealand in the tough kiwi tour of 2002-03, but I finally zeroed on a ton which he made in 2005 vs Pakistan at Kochi. That was a hot and humid day of April with a very slow pitch. Pakistanis were desperate to win the 1st ODI as they lost the famous Bilateral series against India at home in 2004.
Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, who were dismissed off successive balls in the second over of the day, used to be India’s best ODI batsmen. Under that immense pressure, Dravid and Sehwag, who delivered India to safety from 4/2, are in line to take over that mantle.
Sehwag had a very poor year in one-dayers in 2004, averaging just 25.80 and making only five fities in 27 games, something which had an adverse effect on the team’s performance. But on that day, after a lucky escape even before he had scored, he successfully applied the method of his Partner Rahul Dravid, in which his shot selection was better than it has ever been and he was willing to bide his time for short periods and give good bowling its due. The bowlers had to earn his wicket, and it proved to be a hard work for them. After Sehwag got lucky when he was dropped on 0, Dravid ran to him and said to be with him for the next 30 balls and look after the good balls. He exactly did the same thing and shockingly Sehwag ran 50% percent of his runs in singles, doubles and triples.
What was most laudable about Dravid’s support was his masterful placement and his rotation of the strike. He was not a natural striker of the ball like Sehwag and cannot dismiss bowling from his presence in quite the same manner, but by deft touches and placements he managed to keep both his own score ticking along as well as give Sehwag plenty of the strike. After Sehwag got his eye in, he displayed his usual elegant hand eye combo and smashed the ball all round the ground. The mix of Attack and defence was at its best in that inning of Sehwag.
From 4/2 to 205/2 both the batsmen batted with class and maturity. Finally after a 201 runs stand for the 3rd wicket ended when Razzaq went through the defence of Sehwag who made 108 off just 95 balls with 9 fours and 3 sixes. Dravid on the other hand made 104. This Hundred of Sehwag became even more important as non of the other Indian or Pakistani Batsmen even got a half Century on that tough wicket. Interestingly the third top score from India was of Yuvraj Singh who just made 16. India Gave a target of 282 to chase and in reply Pakistan bundled out on 194. Hafeez top Scored with 42 while Tendulkar took 5/50.
That mature Knock of 108 on a difficult track under horrific heat made Sehwag Man of the match and also tempted me to select it as his best ODI ton.