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The World Cup is alive after India and England tie

Sachin Tendulkar hits a magnificent century for India and Andrew Strauss follows suit for England as their teams fight to a thrilling last-ball tie in Group B of the Cricket World Cup in Bangalore.

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Before this game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, there had been a fair few Indian fans who were quite blase about this World Cup.

An interminably long group stage that pretty much guaranteed qualification for the top teams did not help, and the tournament badly needed a show-stopper to light a fire under it.

It got it in Bangalore yesterday in a remarkable game that saw a total of 676 runs scored for the loss of 18 wickets.

There were two centuries of the highest calibre and two unbelievably good spells of bowling at the end of each innings.

At the end of it all, India and England could not be separated - only the fourth tie in the history of the World Cup.

England needed 59 from the last 48 balls with eight wickets in hand when they took the batting power play.

Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell had added 169 in clinical fashion and the 38,000-strong crowd that had raised the roof earlier had become very subdued.

As a last throw of the dice, MS Dhoni threw the ball to Zaheer Khan, one of that rare breed of subcontinent pace bowlers who seem to prefer bowling with an old ball.

Bell, who had been afflicted with cramp minutes earlier, tried to clear the infield and only found cover. One ball later, Strauss was trapped in front by a tremendous yorker.

Game over had become game on. Paul Collingwood was bowled attempting a daft charge, and Zaheer had three for one in six deliveries. After that, it was suddenly India's game to lose and they appeared to have it well under control with 29 runs needed from the final 12 balls.

Step forward the lone hero of England's bowling effort. While Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and others had savaged his teammates, Tim Bresnan had held one end admirably, hitting the deck hard and bowling some superb yorkers on his way to taking five for 48.

After Graeme Swann, targeted by Tendulkar earlier in the day, had hit Piyush Chawla for six, Bresnan followed suit. Though he was bowled soon after, the equation was now a plausible 14 runs from six balls.

Plausible became very possible when the nerveless Ajmal Shahzad struck a flawless six over long-on, but Munaf Patel, whose failure to ground his bat at the end of the Indian innings had cost his side a run, did not unravel under pressure.

England took just four from the final three deliveries, and a fabulous game of cricket had the finish it deserved.

"India will think that we scored 340 and should have won," said Dhoni afterwards. "But England, after they got such a good start, will feel bad that they didn't. It was that sort of game."

As good as Zaheer and Bresnan were, Strauss and Tendulkar will surely steal the headlines after gorgeous innings of contrasting character.

With Virender Sehwag getting off to his usual frenetic start, Tendulkar was circumspection itself early on, making just 24 off 43 balls in the first two power plays.

Then, he changed his bat, one that had got him 15 centuries, and the runs started to flow.

Collingwood was thumped for two sixes, and a new Swann spell greeted by two more shots that cleared the boundary.

From 24 to his century, he needed just 60 balls, and he looked set for far more when he played too early at Jimmy Anderson, who otherwise had a wretched game.

Both teams now have some breathing space to reflect on their bowling frailties.

England will be able to welcome back Stuart Broad, who missed this outing with a stomach bug, while India have to ponder long and hard about the wisdom of going in with just four specialist bowlers.

"Both teams can take stock and both will say that they can go on and play better," said Strauss, whose 145-ball 158 was the best World Cup knock by an Englishman after Graham Gooch's match-winning 115 in the 1987 semi-final.

For now though, a raucous crowd that watched entranced to the end won't care. They more than got their money's worth, and everyone now knows that the World Cup is in town.

sports@thenational.ae

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