It was March, it was 2004 and India were playing Pakistan away. It was all set up for one of the most thrilling ODI series in history of cricket. And they didn’t disappoint. A fantastic series opened by one of the most fascinating contests ever witnessed on a cricket pitch.
India and Pakistan both had fine teams with Saurav Ganguly and Inzamam Ul-Haq captaining the two sides.
Pakistan won the toss and chose to field considering they had Shoaib Akhthar in their line up. But was ensued was a barrage of runs from the bat of the blitzkrieg Virender Sehwag. He layed siege onto the Pakistani attack and creamed the bowlers to all parts of the ground like only he can. But once he was dismissed, a lull came as expected. However it did not last long as Rahul Dravid picked up from where Sehwag left off and ended up on a heartbreaking 99, bowled by Akhtar trying to up the run rate further. Still when he got out, India had a formidable total on the board thanks to a lot of extras from the fielding side to end up with 349 on the board.
Pakistan needing 349 to win knew they had to get off to a quick start, if not a flying one. But they had two openers who were not exactly the butchers like Viru was for India. Both got out within the first 8 overs to leave Yousuf Youhana and the batting stalwart Inzamam Ul-Haq at the crease to not only resurrect the innings but to lay a platform for victory.
And they did so in style by both notching up half centuries before Youhana got out for 73, leaving Pakistan in a solid but by no stretch a commanding position. However Inzamam was still there who smashed a brilliant hundred under pressure to once again establish himself as Pakistan’s premier batsman since Javed Miandad and almost single handedly took the game to the opposition. With Younis Khan and Razzaq pitching in with handy contributions, Pakistan were left with 10 to get off the last over.
Ashish Nehra was handed the ball to win it for India and he bowled an excellent over to leave Pakistan with 6 required off the ball. A repeat of the famous Miandad-Sharma moment was in order however, Moin Khan spooned the ball in the air and was caught by Zaheer Khan to leave Pakistan 5 runs short of a famous win.
A fantastic match and fantastic victory for India which has always stayed in my heart for the sheer grit and determination of the Pakistan batsmen and the willingness of India to fight back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat yet agian.