Sachin's stunning 'Desert Storm'
Reflections on Sachin Tendulkar's memorable hundreds against Australia in April 1998
22 April 2018, 04:33 PM AEST
Scoring a one-day international century against Australia in the late 1990s was no easy task.
Now try scoring two in the space of three days. In searing heat. In two knockout games. Oh, and throw in a sand storm for good measure.
Legend Sachin Tendulkar did just that, in April 1998, to power India to a tri-series title in Sharjah and affirm his status as the best player of his generation.
The 1998 Coca-Cola Cup, a three-team tri-series in the United Arab Emirates featuring India, Australia and New Zealand, was dominated by two factors; the No.1 ranked Australian side, and Tendulkar.
The Indian opener top scored for his side in four of their five matches on his way to 435 runs for the tournament, while the Aussies won all four of their round-robin games to cruise into the final.
The fourth of those four Australian wins, on April 22, was set-up by an unbeaten century to Michael Bevan that propelled them to an imposing total of 7-284 in the days where 300-plus scores we considered unbeatable.
Tendulkar responded with a superb innings of 143 against an attack featuring the likes of Shane Warne, Damien Fleming and Michael Kasprowicz at Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium as temperatures reached a maximum of 41 degrees Celsius.
That innings became known as the ‘Desert Storm’ knock after play was suspended for 25 minutes while a wild sand storm swept through the stadium and reduced India’s victory target from 285 in 50 overs to 277 in 46.
While India fell 26 runs short of victory, Tendulkar’s hand lifted his side beyond the required 237 to edge out New Zealand and qualify for the final two days later.
And at the same venue on April 24, Tendulkar's 25th birthday, he posted 134 against the same bowling attack as India chased down Australia’s 9-272 to win the tournament by six wickets.
Speaking in Mumbai last year, Tendulkar reflected on the physical toll those two innings took on his body, which makes the tournament among the proudest achievements of his brilliant career.
"Given the conditions in the month of April — the temperatures are really high and you can feel the heat going through your shoes and socks — and the first thing you want to do is to put your feet in the ice bucket," Tendulkar said.
"In my case, that was one experience which I remember how tough it was to stay there and play the best team in the world.
"Australia was No.1 at that stage and to beat them so convincingly was extremely satisfying."
Making the second of his two hundreds even more impressive was the extreme travel time required just to get to Sharjah, which severely limited the ability of all players to recover after the first match.
"Those days we used to play in Sharjah and drive all the way back to Dubai," he said.
"By the time we got back to the hotel, unpacked and settled down, it was 2am or so when I went to sleep.
"And the next day was for recovery and the following day was the final. It was not so easy."
Tendulkar's feats in Sharjah were part of a record-breaking year for the right-hander, who amassed 1894 ODI runs in the 12-month period, which remains a record for a calendar year.
He was particularly harsh on the Australians in that period; four of his nine centuries in 1998 came against the men in green and gold and he averaged 88.71 in seven matches against them.
This in addition to the 446 runs at 111 - including two centuries - he scored against them in the Test-match arena.