Sachin Tendulkar played another brilliant innings in his ongoing battle with spin ace Shane Warne in that memorable 1998 season. The rivalry was at the peak and after the test series the result (2-1) was in favor of India and Tendulkar had an early lead.
Post the series in India two teams met in Sharjah and the rivalry continued.
The Coca-Cola Cup was a triangular tournament with New Zealand being the third country. Australia were the dominating one and won their first three matches to qualify for the final. India and New Zealand beat each other once and on 22nd April 1998 India went to the match knowing that they either needed to beat Australia or at least took their net run rate above New Zealand.
Australia took the early initiative thanks to a Michael Bevan century. Australia put up 284 but along with that Indians also had another number in their mind. 254 was required to score to have a superior net run rate over New Zealand. Tendulkar and Ganguly started the chase and then Nayan Mongia added 71 with Tendulkar. Around 25th over, India were scoring at around five per over and falling slightly behind. Tendulkar was playing a sublime innings though and none of the Australian bowlers could put a control on his batting. Especially Warne was treated with extreme control. Tendulkar could work out on all his variations and played shots all around the wicket. He just needed some support from the other end to get the required runs.
To add to the drama a desert sandstorm approached and took the players off the ground for 25 minutes. Once the match was resumed, it was a 46 over affair and India's target was 276. Their other target became 237 for qualification.
Once the match restarted, Tendulkar became even more aggressive and started playing more attacking shots. He passed his century and by the time he got out for 143, his then highest ODI score, India passed the required 237 and were safely sitting with a net run-rate better than that of New Zealand. They could not win the match but the criteria were met. The final was played two days later, on the 25th birthday of the little master.
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