Exactly 16 years ago from now, the two biggest cricket archrivals Pakistan and India were facing each other and the most stylish left-hand batsman of his time was at the crease amid an enthusiastic Chennai crowd. You must be reminiscing about the day. Yes, it was May 21, 1997 when Saeed Anwar played one of the best ODI innings in the sport’s history in an Azadi Cup match.
Anwar scored 194 off 146 and was, unfortunately, dismissed at a time when he was just six runs short of marking an important milestone in the cricket history – an ODI double-century. No player had reached 200 in one-day format before that and, in fact, Anwar was the only batsman to cross 190. He broke the 189-run record of great batsman Vivian Richards, set in 1984 against England.
The dominance of Anwar in the game can be gauged by the fact that as many as 118 runs in his innings were made in boundaries – 22 fours and five sixes. Moreover, playing a record-breaking innings on the rivals’ home ground when a player felt sick was itself miraculous. Piggybacking on Anwar’s exceptional performance, Pakistan later won the match by 35 runs.
Though Anwar had expertise in playing strokes on the off side, his pull shots were also quite superb, and Anil Kumble will never forget it as he was slapped 24 runs in an over by the left-hander.
One of the most successful Pakistani openers, Anwar was considered as a master of one-day cricket. With 8824 runs in 247 ODIs, he is third among the highest run getters for Pakistan. Anwar has many other ODI records under his belt, for instance, three consecutive ODI centuries and most ODI centuries (20) for Pakistan, but the innings that helped him win instant fame was none other than this.
For years, Saeed Anwar had the good fortune that no batsman succeeded to break his record despite coming so closer. Even after leveling Anwar’s score, Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry had to return back to the pavilion not out with a broken heart. But thirteen years after in February 2010, the great Sachin Tendulkar scored a double-century and not only broke Anwar’s record but also had his name recorded in cricket history as the first double centurion. Maybe it was God’s will that he chose a batsman like Tendulkar to break Anwar’s 13-year old record. And yes, the bowler who ended Anwar’s 194-innings was also Tendulkar.