29th of March 2004, India was on a tour of Pakistan after 15 long years. India had only won one series against Pakistan, 25 years before in 1979/80, that too in India. They had lost to Pakistan thrice, twice in their backyard and once in India.
Revenge was definitely on the minds of the Indians given this was one of the strongest sides they had ever fielded in whites.
In the first Test at Multan, captain Rahul Dravid won the toss and chose to bat first against a Pakistan bowling attack that had three stalwarts – Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami and Saqlain Mushtaq, along with a decent support cast.
The steady opening stand
India needed to bat big to make sure they start well in the series, and start well they did. Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag added 160 for the opening wicket, at 4 runs per over. When Chopra fell, he had scored 42 off 121 balls.
Sehwag had already raced to 111 in just 119 balls by then, with 14 fours and 4 sixes. Saqlain was marked for special treatment. In the 24th over, Sehwag smashed the spinner for two fours and a six. A little later Akhtar was dispatched for a four and six too.
However, Pakistan tried to pull things back with a double strike as Sami got Rahul Dravid out cheaply for just 6. India were 173 for 2 in the 43rd over.
The Sehwag-Sachin stand
Sachin started with a four giving an indication of things to come. Sehwag was going all guns blazing, hammering Shabbir Ahmed for three fours in the 49th over, to take India past 200. In typical Sehwag fashion, he reached his 150 in just 150 balls, with a four off Shoaib Akhtar, but the carnage wouldn’t abate anytime soon.
A few overs later, in the 59th, Abdul Razzaq was tonked for three fours.
(Video Courtesy: Elena Ernest YouTube Channel)
Sehwag, who was in a destructive mood, also took India past 300 with a four off Saqlain. A couple of overs prior to that, he got to his double ton, rather uncharacteristically with a couple of runs and not a boundary – a double ton in a single day’s play, that too in just 222 balls. In fact, Sehwag took 10 balls to go from 199 to 200.
That didn’t stop India from reaching 350 in only the 87th over. The foundation was all set for a colossal score; Tendulkar had reached his half-century too.
The second day’s carnage
India’s run-rate had dipped slightly below four as they reached 395 for 2 after 100 overs, Sehwag eventually reaching his 250 off 299 balls. A few quiet overs ensued, but Sehwag opened up once again against Shabbir Ahmed in the 116th over, when he smashed three consecutive fours off the bowler.
A few overs later, Sehwag did something that would become part of cricket’s folklore – when on 295, he took on Saqlain Mushtaq’s bowling and the outfielders to smash a six, reaching his triple ton with a maximum.
Sehwag reached 301 in just 364 balls. He had narrowly missed out on breaking Matthew Hayden’s mark of 362 balls against Zimbabwe made a few months prior to this. Eventually Sehwag did wrest the record for the fastest triple ton by scoring one in just 278 balls against South Africa.
That record would probably stay forever, just like Sehwag’s inimitable style of reaching a triple ton with a risky six. Sami eventually got Sehwag for 309 ending his 531-minute, 375-ball carnage.
India had just crossed 500 a couple of overs before that. The Sachin-Sehwag duo added a phenomenal 336 runs for the third wicket. The Master Blaster would go on to score 194* remaining unbeaten when Rahul Dravid declared the innings – a controversy that has haunted him ever since. India declared on 675 for 5 after 161.5 overs.
Sehwag’s strike rate of 82.5, after scoring close to 40% of India’s runs, ensured they had plenty of time. Sehwag managed 39 fours and 6 sixes during his innings. Mushtaq got his own double ton conceding 204 runs in just 43 overs. In reply, Pakistan were all out for 407.
Rahul Dravid enforced the follow on and despite a valiant 112 by Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan was bundled out for 216. Anil Kumble took a wonderful 6-for. India won the match by an innings and 52 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
After losing the second Test, they would eventually come back to win the third and take the series on Pakistan’s home soil, a win that still remains a gem in India’s cricketing history. Sehwag would be the Player of the Series with another scintillating knock of 90 in the second Test that came in a losing cause.
Impact of the innings
Sehwag’s innings broke Laxman’s record of 281 – the highest individual score by an Indian in Tests until then. Years later, Sehwag narrowly missed out on a third triple, getting out for 294 against Sri Lanka.
No man has ever scored three triples. That Sehwag’s first triple-century came away from home against arch-rivals was the icing on the cake!