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India and England tie up an all-time classic

The World Cup caught fire on Sunday when co-hosts India and England shared a tie in one of the most thrilling matches ever seen after a record-breaking 676-run slug-fest went down to the last ball.

February 28, 2011 / 08:20 AM IST

The World Cup caught fire on Sunday when co-hosts India and England shared a tie in one of the most thrilling matches ever seen after a record-breaking 676-run slug-fest went down to the last ball.

It was not a game for the faint-hearted and those Indian fans who left the stadium early thinking their team was doomed three-quarters of the way through will surely kick themselves forever after missing a truly classic finale.

First India, then England looked to have a complete stranglehold on this Group B encounter in a power struggle which showed off to its very best the supposedly dull and outdated 50-over version of the game.

Yet this was a match with just as much high-octane excitement as anything served up by cricket's brash Twenty20 format.

In the end, England's tail-ender Graeme Swann was left with the task of hitting at least two runs off the final delivery of paceman Munaf Patel after some seven hours and 99.5 overs of exhaustingly absorbing cricket.

He did his best but Patel cannily pitched the ball full and Swann could only jam it down to mid-off for a single which left England tied with India on 338 with two wickets left.

So the spoils were shared but both sides will walk away with thoughts full of what might have been - and what easily might not have been.

"In some ways we're happy and in some ways we're distraught.... but in some ways we're privileged to play in a game like that," England skipper Andrew Strauss said.

His Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni added: "The Indian team will be thinking that you score 340 odd runs and still you have not won the game and the England team will be thinking that you get off to such a good start and get so close to the end and yet you can't finish it off.

"Both teams will be a bit disappointed but they will be relieved to take one point."

Finish victorious

Both India and England will know they have a mountain of work to do if they are to finish victorious come April 2 in the final in Mumbai.

Both were pretty ragged in the field and frequently with the ball as they struggled to make inroads on a supine M Chinnaswamy Stadium wicket which surely must have been prepared by a batsman with a grudge against bowlers.

The majority of the top order batsmen from both sides made the most of such a paradise, none more so than Indian master Sachin Tendulkar who hit a majestic 120 with 10 fours and five apparently effortless sixes in a mammoth 338 all out for India.

No team has ever chased down such a total batting second in the 36-year-old event but Strauss clearly was not daunted, leaving even the world's leading scorer Tendulkar in the shade with a glorious 158.

That was by far the biggest knock for an England skipper in a World Cup but he failed to see the job through and his departure with just over seven overs left prompted a collective nervous collapse among the middle order batsmen who followed.

Suddenly, with England apparently cruising at 281-2 in the 43rd over, the momentum switched dramatically back to India and spearheaded by an inspired Zaheer Khan (3-64) who took all his three wickets in six balls, the game once again looked theirs.

Prematurely celebrating

With the Indian fans - the majority in a packed stadium - now prematurely celebrating a famous turnaround, there was one last twist to come.

With balls running rapidly short, Tim Bresnan (14), Swann (15 not out) and then Ajmal Shazad (6 not out) conjured three sixes between them, including the latter's in the last over which suddenly put the game back in England's reach on the last ball.

A tie probably was the best result for such a celebration of the 50-over format with a number of cameos on either side adding to the overall entertainment.

Virender Sehwag followed his 175 against Bangladesh with a sparkling 35 and Gautam Gambhir (51) and Yuvraj Singh (58) showed some scintillating strokeplay too for India.

In response, Kevin Pietersen (31) helped Strauss off to England's flyer and then Ian Bell (69) joined his skipper in third-wicket partnership of 170.

Bell eventually holed out as cramp took hold but the normally generous reception he would have received by the Bangalore crowd was tempered somewhat by the belief that he should have departed earlier in his innings.

He looked plumb in front lbw but was given a very generous benefit of a doubt by the third umpire because the ball had struck him so far down the wicket.

A moment of controversy but overall the memories of the match will be only of a run-laden classic thriller worthy of Bollywood played by two flawed sides who were touched on the day by frequent moments of absolute inspiration.

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