Against the best in the world, in the midst of a desert — where the temperatures soared so high that the heat could be felt through the shoes and socks — then India's cricketing star, Sachin Tendulkar, reached his apogee, playing an incandescent innings of 143 off 130 balls.
Even 20 years after Tendulkar's epic, the innings remains a memorable day for cricket fans in India. The Indian team required to beat Australia or finish with a better net run rate than New Zealand — the third team in the Coco Cola tri series — to qualify for the final.
Chasing an imposing target of 285, India needed 254 runs to make the cut. Chasing such a total was considered a tremendous task in those times, especially against the might of Australian side.
The venue, Sharjah Cricket Stadium, was hit by a sandstorm suspending play for about 25 minutes, only to make the target stiffer for India, but at the same time enhance the narrative of one of ODI cricket's greatest innings.
With 276 needed to win and 237 to qualify after the break, Sachin entered 'the zone' launching an assault against the Australian bowlers smashing them to all corners of the ground.
Tendulkar blazed past his hundred and batted like a man possessed.
India ensured they would take part in the final to be played two days later, after crossing their qualification target of 237 with Tendulkar stroking past his previous best – 137 – in ODIs with the shot embellishing the event with poetic symbolism.
With India booking a place in the finals, the pressure was released, the task was complete. Not for Tendulkar though, the batsman was in a state of trance, with the mind focused on taking India to victory.
India required 38 off 20 balls with Tendulkar still in the middle, even though the scoring rate was far-fetched by the cricket played during those times, only he could have thought about the win. He bludgeoned a cover drive to move four runs closer to impossibility.
He was caught behind off the last ball off the 43rd over drawing curtains on his unforgettable displays of batting. His heroics was baptised as 'Desert storm'.
Adding bells and whistles to the brilliant knock was Tony Grieg's voice behind the microphone in the commentary. His lines, "They are dancing in the aisles in Sharjah," to capture the excitement among the fans at the stadium, "Sacchinn Tendulkar. Whadddaplaya, what a wonderful playa!” immortalising the great man's innings.
VVS Laxman and Hrishikesh Kanitkar added eight more runs post Tendulkar's wicket, off the next three overs. It testified the bravado of the man who fought against all odds to bring his team close to the target.
India fell 25 runs short of victory, but Tendulkar's hand gave him and his side a chance to take on the Aussies again in the finals two days later. Along with his 25th birthday, Tendulkar smashed another century, this time to help India win the Coco Cola Cup.
Watch Sachin's blitz post the sandstorm: