On this day: Saeed Anwar’s record 194 overshadowed Rahul Dravid’s maiden ODI ton
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May 21, 1997 is not a date Indian cricket fans would remember fondly. Against their arch rivals Pakistan, India were blown away by a batsman with a pretty strong record against them. At the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Saeed Anwar not only took the Indian bowlers on but smashed his way into the record books, hitting the then-highest individual score of 194 in ODIs, eclipsing the 189 Viv Richards had scored 13 years ago.
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Anwar’s record stood for over a decade, along with Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry who remained unbeaten on an identical score in 2009. The following year, incidentally it was none other than Sachin Tendulkar – the captain of India on that fateful day – who brought up ODI cricket’s first-ever double hundred. However, even today, 27 years removed, when an ODI double is no longer an oddity, Anwar’s hammering of India’s bowlers remains a special knock.
Opinions remain divided over his knock. 118 of his 194 runs came with Shahid Afridi operating as his runner, allowing Anwar to concentrate more on his boundary hitting skills. It was the 18th over of the innings, when Afridi, earlier out caught to a splendid catch by Sourav Ganguly, raced out when Anwar complained of muscle cramps. Yet, on an extremely hot Chennai afternoon, Anwar set on to produce a knock highly demoralising for the opposition.
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Anwar fancied batting against the Indian bowling. He averaged 43.52 against them and 47.28 in wins. The sixth match of the Pepsi Independence Cup was to prove why. Despite critics questioning the decision to have a runner, Anwar’s ability to carve out boundaries – he hit 22 fours and five sixes – was nothing ever seen before. Three of those sixes were on the trot – in the 41st over of the innings, off the bowling of Anil Kumble. The over read: 2, 2, 6, 6, 6, 4.
It was in the 26th over that Anwar reached his 100, India’s poor fielding and ordinary aiding him. As an unimaginable 200 in ODI loomed, Anwar, who was cramping up pretty bad towards the end of the innings, top edged a sweep off Tendulkar, and was held well by Ganguly at fine leg. He was dismissed with three overs to go. Had it not been for the cramps, Anwar could have carved the skin off Indian bowlers, which is unfair to say he didn’t already, having taking the score to 327/5.
Anwar’s damaging 194 shadows over Aqib Javed’s five-wicket-haul and Rahul Dravid’s maiden ODI hundred, which was largely influential behind India finishing on 292.