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Warne’s Warriors trump Sachin’s Blasters in All-Stars opener

Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne at NYSE

  New York :  The chants of ‘Sachin, Sachin’ filled the air but Sachin Tendulkar could not trump Shane Warne’s magic as the Indian icon’s Blasters went down to the Australian legend’s Warriors in the first ‘Cricket All Stars’ Twenty20 here.

Tendulkar was the undisputed favourite for the largely Asian crowd at a baseball stadium here but it was Warne, who weaved some old-time magic to lead his side to a six-wicket win.

Set a target of 141, the Warriors romped home with 16 balls to spare after Ricky Ponting and Kumar Sangakkara hit 81 runs between them.

Shane Warne snared three wickets, including that of Tendulkar and the legendary Brian Lara. For the Blasters, Virender Sehwag hit the series’ first half-century which came off just 22 deliveries.

Electing to field after winning the toss, the Warriors were given a rollicking start by Tendulkar and Sehwag, much to the delight of an expatriate crowd that filled the stands. Together, the former Indian batsman raked in 85 runs in a mere 48 deliveries.

However, the rest of the star-studded line-up failed to come good and the team ended with 140 for 8. For Warriors, Warne showed that he had lost none of the famed magic with figures of 3/20 in his four overs.

In reply, Ponting (48 not out) and Sangakkara (41) steered the Warriors home after a top-order collapse.

Overall, Tendulkar and Warne’s attempts to introduce cricket to the Americans worked quite well on debut.

“The whole idea of Cricket All Stars is that, to try to get as many nations together to celebrate this. It was electrifying,” Tendulkar said.

“I thought it was fantastic, the atmosphere was amazing,” said Warne after the match. The music, crowd, atmosphere — it was nothing not to like. How could you not enjoy that experience today? It was fantastic,” added Warne.

The nearly 36,000 strong spectators erupted with a deafening roar as Tendulkar and Sehwag walked onto the field to begin their innings after Warne won the toss and decided to field first.

Shouts of ‘Sachin, Sachin’ and ‘Viru Viru’ reverberated throughout the stadium for the entire duration that they were on the field.

Tendulkar thanked the cheering crowd for the support, saying during the post-match presentation that “the first match has been really special. We thoroughly enjoyed being here. New York, you were brilliant. Houston and LA, you are going to find it difficult to match them.”

Addressing media in a post-match press conference, Tendulkar said, “For any sportsman the best thing one can do is to appreciate their performance and effort and that is what we all experienced today.”

Warne also voiced appreciation for the fans who had turned up to watch cricket in a baseball stadium.

“We wanted to be competitive. There was some skillful batting and bowling and fielding out there. But we know they will come back hard in Houston. A lot of the guys have trained hard, they are proud people, they don’t want to be embarrassed and they were not today,” he said.

While the match was played competitively, the camaraderie between the players was visible as they laughed and cheered each other during the game.

The next match will be on November 11 in Houston, coinciding with the Indian festival of Diwali. Tendulkar said Houston will have a “big reason to celebrate” on the festival day.

Both the teams took a lap of honour after the game, thanking and applauding the cheering fans who waved the national flags, banners and placards to honour the legends.

From banners that read ‘Sachin for President’, ‘Sachin is our God’ to ‘God Blessed America’, the fans had come fully prepared to cheer their cricket icons. Many of them had their faces painted with colours of their national flags and wearing cricket T-shirts representing their respective countries.

Tendulkar said he hopes to make the series an annual event. For the matches in Houston and Los Angeles, Warne and Tendulkar said they would make some changes in the line-up and rotate the players as they want all the cricketers to participate in the series.

Warne said some people had been sceptical on how the retired players will perform but “we didn’t take it easy, it was very competitive.”

Appearing with Tendulkar and Warne in the post-match press conference Shoaib Akhtar said it was “amazing” playing with Tendulkar.

“He is an amazing captain. What better brand than Sachin to promote the game abroad,” said Akhtar, who took two wickets for 26 runs.

When asked if after playing the series, the cricketers felt they had taken retirement a bit soon, Tendulkar said that playing three exhibition games is different from playing a full season.

“When you are expected to play an entire season, it is quite a bit and the body is not able to take that load. The reason to again start to play after retirement is to globalise cricket and there are exciting times ahead as well,” he said.

Sehwag quipped that he has retired from international cricket to play with all the legends in the All Star series.

“That’s the reason for me to retire,” he said with a laugh.

After the match, several fans waited outside the stadium, hoping to get a glimpse of their favourite stars. Sumit Modi, a software engineer living in Jersey City said it was an amazing experience for him to watch all the iconic players, whom an entire generation has grown up watching.

“It was a dream for us to see so many players on the field,” he said.

The fact that the players were retired did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Karthik Parekh, a physical therapist, said, “as long as Sachin is on the field, it does not matter whether the players are retired or not. It is a dream to see Sachin.”

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