World Cup History: An India-Pakistan battle at Manchester two decades back
Cricket fans worldwide are on their toes to watch the June 16th World Cup fixture between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. A match between the subcontinent nations has always been considered as Mother of all Cricketing contests.
Incidentally, the venue of the battle this time, have been Manchester again, where the subcontinent giants met in 1999 when the World Cup was last hosted in England.
Pakistan's edge over India in 1999
Way back in 1999 Pakistan was a dominant rival for India when it came to cricket. It was evident from the fact that India had lost five out of their last six matches to the neighboring country including two tri-series finals in the run-up to the quadrennial event.
In the tournament itself, having placed in different groups, the road to super-six were of contrasting nature for the Asian giants. While Pakistan dominated in the league stage topping their group table, India managed to just scrape through after losing their first two group fixtures.
Having lost their first super-six match to Australia, it was a must win game for India to stay in the contention for a semi-final slot while Pakistan was still sitting comfortable despite their first super-six match defeat to South Africa because of the points they carried from the first round.
A steady but solid start from Indians
On June 8, 1999, India won the toss and elected to bat to face the famous Pakistan pace attack comprising skipper Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood in the swinging English conditions.
India were without the services of their in-form opener Sourav Ganguly. In his absence, Sadagoppan Ramesh came to open with the maestro Sachin Tendulkar. Though they started slowly, but ensured India didn't lose a wicket in the first ten overs.
Ramesh fell for 20, bowled by Razzak when the score was 37 in 12th over. The man in-form, Rahul Dravid, joined Tendulkar and suddenly runs started flowing. Both the batsmen found their feet and started hitting boundaries. India raced to 95/1 before Sachin fell to Azhar Mahmood looking to hit over the mid-off.
Half-centuries from Dravid, Azhar, propel India
Ajay Jadeja followed after scoring just 6 when Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin joined Dravid who was standing rock solid at one end. Since it was just mid-way through the innings and not much batting to come after them, Dravid and Azhar chose to drop the anchor instead of going for quick runs.
They braved the probing attack from Pakistan pace bowlers and looked for runs when spinner Saqlain Mushtaq operated. Slowly they built a partnership of 51 runs in 15 overs as Azhar who was struggling for runs throughout the tournament was looking to find some form in the company of "The Wall."
Dravid after scoring his fifth 50+ score in the tournament, departed in 40th over looking to get the run rate moving, when Shahid Afridi's leap was good enough to pouch the former's intended hit over covers. Robin Singh then joined forces with his captain.
Both the veterans kept themselves busy as they looked to accumulated maximum runs possible in the slog overs. There were few sparks as well when Pakistan bowler Akhtar exchanged few words with Indian captain. The latter appeared giving few words back but the better response came when he hit couple of lusty boundaries of the express pace-man.
Fighting first innings total...
The senior duo hit a six each as India went past 200. Azhar crossed 50 run mark for the first time in the tournament before he fell in the penultimate over of the Indian innings. Singh trying to grab runs as much as possible skied one to be caught on the last ball of the innings which accounted for 227 runs at the loss of six wickets.
The score seemed to be a fighting total as Indians had pacers Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Debashish Mohanty who were already having a good outing in the tournament. Then they had ace spinner Anil Kumble as well in their ranks.
As per the folklore about this match, during lunch time, Jagamohan Dalmiya, the then ICC president, seemed to have bumped into Indian pacer Prasad and told him to win the match at any cost.
Incidently it was Prasad who had scripted the famous victory against the same rivals in the World Cup 1996 quarter-finals as well! Playing on his home ground at Bangalore, Prasad got triggered after being spooked by the rival opener Aamir Sohail whom he removed in the next delivery itself cart-wheeling the off-stump.
Srinath and Prasad rock Pakistan batting line-up
Srinath struck early removing dangerous Shahid Afridi for 6 in his second over. He followed it up in his fifth over by removing tentative looking Ijaz Ahmed for 11, when Pakistan's score was 44 in tenth over.
Prasad, introduced as first-change bowler, struck soon by trapping another veteran Saleem Mallik for just 6. The Bangalore lad then forced the well settled opener Saeed Anwar to edge towards slips where his skipper Azhar didn't make any mistake to pouch the catch.
Kumble also joined the party by scalping Azhar Mahmood, leaving Pakistan tottering at 78 for 5 in 25th over. Though Inzamam ul Haq and Moin Khan tried to forge a partnership but Indian bowlers were not letting them to fly freely.
After both of them got out, again to the tricks of Prasad, it became just a matter of time. The entire Pakistani batting order got bundled out for just 180 in their 46th over gifting India a convincing victory of 47 runs.
Prasad who finished with match figures of 5 for 27, was awarded "Man of the Match". It was India's third victory in as many fixtures against Pakistan in World Cup. Twenty years and four more World Cups since then, they have doubled that tally keeping 100% success ratio.
Also read - Most catches in world cupPublished 15 Jun 2019, 16:08 IST