So near yet so far for England. So tantalisingly near, so excruciatingly far. In the most compelling of contests, a perfect advertisement for 50-over cricket in general and this World Cup in particular, they tied with India yesterday.
If it seemed a vaguely unsatisfactory conclusion after 99.5 scintillating overs in which each side scored 338, it was also quite proper. It meant that neither Andrew Strauss nor Sachin Tendulkar had to finish on the losing side after each scored wonderful centuries.
It is saying something, nay it is shouting it from the rooftops, that Strauss's brilliantly controlled 158 matched the great Tendulkar's characteristically breathtaking 120 for virtuosity. Strauss's innings was the highest for England in the World Cup, the highest of his six ODI hundreds and came from only 145 balls.
For Tendulkar it was pretty much business as usual. He played with consummate grace, had a look early on and accelerated when he felt the need, hitting five sixes. They were both a pure joy to watch.
The match was one of peaks and troughs for both sides. India, 236 for 3 when Tendulkar was out, will have rued losing their last seven wickets for 33 runs as their innings stalled in the final five overs. It was in that spell, when the game might have been put out of reach, that England demonstrated that they meant business after all in this competition, that they were not all gas and gaiters. Tim Bresnan, bowling straight and with confident variety, took four wickets in 10 balls, three of them in four to finish with 5 for 48.
But in turn, England will have had their own regrets. They seemed to be making light work of chasing down their target, making the Sunday evening cauldron in Bangalore seem like a gentle stroll in a quiet rural park with the wife and kids. But from 281 for 2 with the batting powerplay at hand they suddenly lost four wickets in eight balls, undone by some lethal swing from Zaheer Khan.
Both Strauss and Ian Bell, who shared 170 runs for the third wicket, had gone. The game now seemed up. England have talked often of self-belief, of confidence, of never knowing when they are beaten and sometimes it seems blah and blah again. Not now. Through the efforts of Graeme Swann, Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad they got desperately close.
All hit timely sixes, Shahzad off the first ball he faced. They come from the same cricketing mould, this trio, a bit cocky, vastly competitive behind the smiles, and always assuming that victory is possible. England, needing 29 from the final two overs with Zaheer's spell thankfully finished, arrived at the last ball requiring two. Swann drilled his drive firmly enough but within mid-off's compass and England were restricted to a single.
Strauss, relieved and elated at once, said: "In the end you have got to celebrate the fact that it was an unbelievable game of cricket, probably the best advert for the 50-over format you could get. There were some great performances on both sides and both will be partly happy, partly sad.
"It was a pretty tough task to chase down that sort of total but we got ourselves into a position after 42 overs when we just needed to have a good powerplay and we were there. But these powerplays can affect you both ways and unfortunately it affected us in a negative way. In the end we did pretty well to scramble a tie out of it."
Despite their refusal to let India's innings run over the hills and far away, it was possible to fear the worst for England between innings. That they had done well after Tendulkar had scored his fifth World Cup hundred was not in doubt, but they still had plenty to do. No side had ever chased more than 312 to win a match in the World Cup; only two in the previous 3108 one-day matches had made more to win.
England had started tigerishly and Jimmy Anderson might have dismissed Virender Sehwag three times in the first over of the match as the ball flew to slip, just wide of cover and just above the bowler's head. But Tendulkar, beaten once early on, soon took calm command. It is all so unfussy, so improbably calm as he wreaks terrible damage.
The Yorkshiremen, Bresnan and Shahzad were the pick of England's bowlers, and Swann refused to buckle under some serious pressure. But Anderson, going for 91 after conceding 72 against the Netherlands, begins to be a worry.
England went off in a blaze of strokemaking with Strauss and Kevin Pietersen matching each other blow for blow. It meant they were always ahead of the rate. It was Strauss's partnership with Bell that so nearly saw England home. After an unsteady beginning, Bell was blissfully acquisitive.
He had a narrow escape when he was 17 when he missed a sweep against Yuvraj Singh. Given not out by umpire Billy Bowden, India appealed under the decision review system. The technology showed the ball hitting but Bell was too far down for any certainty to be accorded. The decision stood.
The rest seemed all so serene until Zaheer, finding vicious swing, removed them both in successive balls. Bell, suffering from cramp, holed out high to cover, Strauss was lbw to a brutal yorker.
England's late middle order were understandably panicked until the three bowling cavaliers came at the end. Strauss might have felt denied but his was an innings of exemplary fortitude, playing shots down the ground that would once have been beyond him, and retaining his merciless cutting and pulling.
"Given the importance of the game, India in the World Cup in India, it was obviously crucial that one of our players got a big score today," he said. "It would have been great to have been not out at the end and to have seen the boys home but it is something you can be very proud of." And so it was.
The tie in numbers
120 Sachin Tendulkar's knock made him the first batsman to hit five centuries in the World Cup.
47 Number of one-day international hundreds 37-year-old Tendulkar has now accumulated.
4,000 Andrew Strauss became only the sixth Englishman ever to pass the one-day runs landmark when he reached 41.
158 Strauss' century was the highest one-day international score he has recorded, and was also the first hundred by an England captain in a World Cup.
170 The partnership between Ian Bell and Strauss was a ground record for the third wicket.
53 James Anderson's dismissal of Tendulkar was his first ODI wicket in India since 2006, 53 overs ago.
4 Yesterday's match was only the fourth tie in World Cup history, following previous draws between South Africa and Australia (1999), Sri Lanka v South Africa (2003, via D/L) and Ireland v Zimbabwe (2007).
320-8 England's previous highest ODI score when batting second, v India in 2007.
Bangalore: India (1pt) tied with England (1pt)
India won toss
V Sehwag c Prior b Bresnan 35/0/6/26/34
S R Tendulkar c Yardy b Anderson 120/5/10/115/170
G Gambhir b Swann 51/0/5/61/92
Yuvraj Singh c Bell b Yardy 58/0/9/50/74
*†M S Dhoni c Sub b Bresnan 31/1/3/25/37
Y K Pathan c Swann b Bresnan 14/1/1/8/9
V Kohli b Bresnan 8/0/1/5/9
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Bresnan 0/0/0/1/3
Z Khan run out 4/0/0/5/12
P P Chawla run out 2/0/0/4/5
M M Patel not out 0/0/0/0/0
Extras (lb3 w7 nb5) 15
Total (all out, 49.5 overs);338
Fall: 1-46, 2-180, 3-236, 4-305, 5-305, 6-327, 7-327, 8-328, 9-338, 10-338.
Bowling: J M Anderson 9.5-0-91-1, A Shahzad 8-0-53-0, T T Bresnan 10-1-48-5, G P Swann 9-1-59-1, P D Collingwood 3-0-20-0, M H Yardy 10-0-64-1.
*A J Strauss lbw b Khan 158/1/18/145/186
K P Pietersen c & b Patel 31/0/5/22/44
I J L Trott lbw b Chawla 16/0/1/19/27
I R Bell c Kohli b Khan 69/1/4/71/106
P D Collingwood b Khan 1/0/0/5/10
†M J Prior c Sub b Harbhajan Singh 4/0/0/8/14
M H Yardy c Sehwag b Patel 13/0/1/10/15
T T Bresnan b Chawla 14/1/0/9/16
G P Swann not out 15/1/0/9/11
A Shahzad not out 6/1/0/2/4
Extras (b1 lb7 w3) 11
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 338
Fall: 1-68, 2-111, 3-281, 4-281, 5-285, 6-289, 7-307, 8-325.
Did not bat: J M Anderson.
Bowling: Z Khan 10-0-64-3, M M Patel 10-0-70-2, P P Chawla 10-0-71-2, Harbhajan Singh 10-0-58-1, Yuvraj Singh 7-0-46-0, Y K Pathan 3-0-21-0.
Umpires: B F Bowden and M Erasmus.Reuse content