Coronavirus Outbreak: Classic matches to watch (or re-watch) during extended lockdown

With no live sport on the horizon due to the coronavirus pandemic, Firstpost writers share their choices of matches that they would love to revisit.

FP Sports April 18, 2020 08:27:00 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: Classic matches to watch (or re-watch) during extended lockdown

Part 1, as it turned out, of the lockdown is over and part 2 has begun. Sporting activity continues to be an afterthought as the impact of the coronavirus continues to be felt across the globe. Live sporting events were largely brought to a standstill in March and the likelihood of your favourite sport coming back to stadiums and television screens anytime soon look grim. At this juncture, many sports channels have been filling up space with classic matches and contests.

Here at Firstpost, our writers jogged their memories and came up with clashes that are worth rewatching.

2008 Wimbledon Final: Federer vs Nadal

The 2008 Wimbledon featuring Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer is quite easily the greatest tennis match in recent history. Nadal would go on to win his first non-Roland Garros slam and stop Federer's run of Wimbledon titles at five. A four hour and 48 minute match-up, extending to five sets, is one to witness live. But if you haven't, now is the perfect opportunity.

2005 Champions League Final: Liverpool vs AC Milan

There have been quite a few breathtaking comebacks in Champions League history and some recently as well but one in the final is something else. 'Miracle of Istanbul' as it came to be known as saw Liverpool win their first European Cup honour in 20 years at the expense of a Milan side that looked to be cruising at one point. Yet another great final in sport.

(By Tanuj Lakhina)

India vs Pakistan, Chennai Test, 1999

Yes, *that*  Test. A Sachin Tendulkar masterclass in a losing cause, we have heard that opera before, but Chennai 1999 is where it reached its crescendo. Against Pakistan, with a rapidly deteriorating back, battling crushing pressure that such high-voltage encounters bring, Tendulkar conjured a stirring 136 that would become his piece de resistance.

Like every India-Pakistan match, sub-plots - political and otherwise - abound. Pakistan were touring India for the first time in 12 years; the last time the two nations played a Test match was in 1989, when Tendulkar made his debut. In the decade that followed, Tendulkar would graduate from being the cherubic teenager to the 'Little Master', hoisting a nation's hopes and giving it the courage to dream.

Chasing 271, Tendulkar arrived with India having lost their second wicket for six runs. Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Azharuddin, and Sourav Ganguly departed without much support, but in the company of a feisty Nayan Mongia, Tendulkar began the reconstruction.

As the afternoon wore on,  Saqlain Mushtaq and Wasim Akram began their magic and sure enough, Mongia departed. Tendulkar, by now clutching his back in excruciating pain, chugged along. He eventually fell to Saqlain to a tired, mistimed shot, but with India needing 17 runs and three wickets in hand, one still hedged his bets on the hosts. Wrong. Akram and Saqlain would concede just four more runs and wrap up the Indian tail in a jiffy to inflict a heartbreak for the ages. The Chennai crowd absorbed the shock and stood to applaud the victorious Pakistanis. Different times, indeed.

World Championships Final, 2017: PV Sindhu vs Nozomi Okuhara

110 minutes. Agreed, these are trained, conditioned athletes who are bred to stretch the limits of endurance, but even by their gold standard, what PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara did for that long in Glasgow on 27 August, 2017 was a memorable ode to human endeavour.

The duo found its iron will on that unforgettable day to play the longest women's World Championships final of all time, and the second-longest women's singles match ever.

Scorecards tend to hide as much as they reveal, but in this case, a 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 scoreline tells enough about the dogfight that the match was. Sindhu led at mid-game intervals in both games she lost, won the three longest rallies of the match, including an epic 73-shot eye-popping exchange, but Okuhara, the returning machine that she is, kept coming back.

Okuhara put Sindhu through an intense examination of skills, strength, and stamina. The match also stands out for a variety of contrasts: A towering player against a much shorter opponent, an attacking game against a defensive retriever, body smashes against deft touches, raw power against rubbery wrists. The closure came with Sindhu falling to a sliced drop, but knowing fully well that her place in badminton history is secure.

(By Shantanu Srivastava)

Coca Cola Cup, 1998: India vs Australia at Sharjah

People looked up to Tendulkar during tough times and he had the ability to bring smiles with his craft on the field. Nuanced commentary of Tony Greig, Richie Benaud and Ian Chappell, made this inning extra special. The Tendulkar-Greig combo added so much verve and passion. A sandstorm delayed proceedings with a place in the final on the line. What's not to like about the added drama?

There was drama, emotions, vibrancy, and brilliance. No matter how many times I watch, Tendulkar's Desert Storm innings gives me goosebumps.

(By Jigar Mehta)

2002 NatWest Trophy Final: India vs England

In the 2000s, Indian cricket team had developed a reputation of being successful chasers in ODIs. Under Ganguly, India's chasing relied on the explosive openers and solid middle-order. When India chased down 326 runs in 50 overs, an arduous ask at the time, in the final of the NatWest series against England, ODI cricket and Indian team entered a new era.

Highlights probably don't do justice to this humdinger. Watching the entire match, ball-by-ball, is nothing short of popcorn-munching wholesome entertainment. Marcus Trescothick and England captain Nasser Hussain scored cracking centuries and Freddie Flintoff's late flourish took England to a terrific total.

Later, Ganguly and Virender Sehwag provided a glorious start: scoring 100 runs before the 14th over but India were reduced to 146/5. A Yuvraj Singh-Mohammad Kaif partnership followed by Ganguly's shirtless, explicit-ridden celebration gets etched in your memory. It's best to watch it than read about it.

Premier League 2018: Liverpool vs Manchester City

Sure, there are many other great football matches but recency bias and this writer's emotional attachment with the Reds pinpoints to this particular match. Pep Guardiola's Manchester City were unbeaten in the league and Jurgen Klopp's resurgent Liverpool were pumping goals thanks to their attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

At the ever-noisy Anfield, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain gave Liverpool the lead with a pile-driver from outside the box. Leroy Sane equalised with a brilliant left-footer. It was in the second-half that the match exploded, with Liverpool scoring three goals in eight minutes to go 4-1 up. It appeared that with each Liverpool goal, decibel level at Anfield went up.

City showed why they were the best football club around at the time when they scored twice to make it 4-3. Liverpool held on to their slender lead to pull off a stunning victory and entered the post-Philippe Coutinho era of Klopp with aplomb.

(By Anish Anand)

South Africa vs Australia (5th ODI at Johannesburg, 2006)

The fifth ODI of Australia’s tour of South Africa in 2006 went down in record books as one of the greatest matches of all time. After all, how often do you have a side post a mammoth 434 and still not win?

With series level at 2-2, it was an absolute run fest – a record 872 runs were shared between the two sides and South Africa did the unthinkable when they struck 438/9, thus pulling off the highest successful ODI run chase ever.

After a strong start, captain Ricky Ponting scored a brilliant 105 ball-164. Post Ponting's departure, Mike Hussey (81 off 51 balls) and Andrew Symonds (27 off 13 balls) continued the onslaught, powering the visitors to 434/4.

In reply, Graeme Smith got the Proteas off to a flying start with his 55-ball 90. The show, however, belonged to Herschelle Gibbs, who hammered 21 fours and seven maximums during his 111-ball 175. Johan Van der Wath (35 off 18 balls) ensured the momentum did not slide. In the end, it was Mark Boucher (50), who anchored the innings and took the hosts past the finish line with one wicket and a ball to spare.

Notably, this happened before the T20I revolution took cricket by storm.

(By Sameer Chhabra)

ICC Cricket World Cup final 2011: India vs Sri Lanka

This match, being played in front of a packed Wankhede Stadium, had everything a cricket enthusiast would hope for. From the toss that happened twice due to some confusion after match referee Jeff Crowe could not hear the then-captain Kumar Sangakkara’s call to that iconic ‘Dhoni finishes off in style’ six, this contest is surely bound to bring you back some nostalgic memories.

Mahela Jayawardene’s century, Indian fans thinking all was over when Gautam Gambhir was dismissed for 97 in the finishing stages also being key moments. All in all, as an avid cricket fan, it will be hard to not forget one of the most memorable nights in Indian cricket: the night when MS Dhoni’s team lifted the prestigious trophy for the first time in 28 years.

(By PN Vishnu)

2017 Australian Open Final: Federer vs Nadal

For 16 years now, Federer and Nadal have waged beautiful war against each other. Every time they have met on a court, the world has witnessed some truly awe-inspiring tennis.

Besides the 2008 Wimbledon showdown, another contest that can make this list is their meeting at the 2017 Australian Open. The match saw an ageing Federer re-establish the significance of their rivalry by winning his first Grand Slam in five years.

In a marathon five-setter that finished 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in Federer's favour, the pair went back and forth with relentless intensity for three hours and 37 minutes, coaxing the very best out of each other. It was a match for the ages, an instant classic which Federer himself said that he ‘would have been happy to lose.’

(By Aadi Nair)

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