Answer by Annanya Johari:
Sachin's 136 in the Chennai Test in 1999 was special because of many reasons. It was perhaps the greatest innings and the saddest tragedy of his splendid career. A match that will continue to be remembered by the Master as that moment of inconsolable heartbreak, in spite of the many monumental feats of his willow before and since.
- India-Pakistan Situation: It was the first test match between India and Pakistan after 9 years. The venue was originally scheduled to be Delhi, and was later changed to Chennai after threats and vandalism by Hindu extremists. The Chidambaram Stadium was guarded by 3,000 police and military officials. It was a match that attracted international attention. A few months after the two neighboring nations had been engaged in a competition of nuclear tests, they were resuming cricketing contests that drove people across the borders to fever-pitch frenzy. With the focus of the world on the subcontinent, journalists from all over the world flocked in for the Chennai Test.
- Match Situation: The match lived up to its high billing. With half-centuries from Yousuf Youhana and Moin Khan, Pakistan scored 238 in the first innings. India replied with 254, with Sachin getting out on a duck. In the second innings, Pakistan, buoyed by Shahid Afridi's 141, put on 286, setting India 271 to win on a deteriorating track. Tendulkar walked out with India tottering at 6 for 2, the openers having fallen to Waqar. At the other end, Akram was breathing fire. Saqlain Mushtaq’s fingers itched for a bowl on a wicket that was fast breaking up. Rahul Dravid, at the other end, was just about managing to survive.
- Sachin's Innings: Sachin now decided to seize back the initiative. Three boundaries in quick succession underlined that the match was far from over. The third day ended with India at 40 for 2. The fourth morning saw 45,000 thousand people in the stands. Tendulkar walked out with the unwavering goal of winning the match, but it was more than apparent that runs would be difficult to come by. The conditions were supremely difficult and the bowling outstanding. Dravid soon departed for 10 runs made in over 110 minutes. Azharuddin and Ganguly scratched around for some time but they went too and by lunch and India was precariously at 86 for 5. Each time a wicket fell, Tendulkar made some quick runs to ease off the pressure. The bowling remained classy and tight, Akram and Saqlain piling on pressure, helped along by small spells from Younis, Shahid Afridi and Nadeem Khan. Nayan Mongia hung in there with the master, the scoreboard almost drying up in the gripping battle. Runs came in a trickle, boundaries dried up. Unable to find gaps in the field, Tendulkar started to paddle-sweep Saqlain. The stroke, started bringing him quite a few runs behind the keeper where no fielder is placed. The tension reached breaking points, nerves were taut, fingernails gnawed to the quick. Tendulkar, with Mongia in tow, carried on the fight. It was Test cricket at its gruelling best.
- The dramatic over: In the 78th over, India stood at 152 for five, Tendulkar on 83, his lower back starting to betray him at this critical juncture. Saqlain’s first ball was not really short, but Tendulkar rocked back to pull him over midwicket for four. The next one was an impeccable paddle sweep for four more. The third ball was tossed up, Tendulkar came down the track to hit it down the ground. The ball took the inside edge and Moin Khan floored the difficult catch, and also muffled the resulting stumping chance. Saqlain groaned and knelt down on the pitch in frustration.
- Tendulkar in God-Mode: After the dropped catch though, Tendulkar was in 'The Zone'. Saqlain's fifth ball was sent to the fine boundary with another paddle sweep and the last ball smacked to deep midwicket fence. And in the following Saqlain over, Tendulkar turned one to the square-leg and ran across, arms pumping, completing one of the best ever hundreds of his career. Akram opted for the new ball in the next over. Tendulkar cracked him through the covers for four. And then there was that sublime straight drive off Younis, little more than a forward defensive push that streaked away between the bowler and the mid-off. India required 53 more after Mongia departed for 52. Sachin was now in a hurry to end the match. He drove Akram to the fence to reduce the target to less than thirty. The back was now really bothering the great man. Tendulkar stepped out and straight drove Saqlain for four. That stroke strained his back even further. The next ball was pulled imperiously to the midwicket fence.
- The Heartbreak: With 17 more required to win, Tendulkar was done in when he holed out to Wasim Akram in the covers. He walked back crestfallen, after a 405-minute masterful display of ability and grit. The remaining batsmen could not take India to the target. They managed just four more runs and India lost by 12 runs. The Pakistanis bowed to the ground in prayer and embarked on a lap of honour, to a standing ovation from the Chennai crowd, whose sporting behaviour won much praise.
It was a truly epic innings. The most brilliant played under the titanic pressure in an India-Pakistan encounter that brought the side to the brink of victory from the doldrums of 6 for 2. It could have been the greatest match-winning innings played by the master if the last few runs had been scored.