Specials – Best of Indo-Pak duels in the desert

  The Asia Cup group game between India and Pakistan in Dubai on September 19 was the first instance of the arch-rivals playing each other in the United Arab Emirates in over 12 years. The previous instance of the two teams meeting in the UAE was in 2006, when they played a two-ODI series in Abu Dhabi.

  This hiatus was in stark contrast to the 1990s, when ODIs between the South Asian giants at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium used to be a regular feature in the calendar. Since their first meeting at Sharjah during the 1983-84 Asia Cup, India and Pakistan have now played each other in 27 ODIs in the UAE.

  Pakistan have clearly dictated terms over the years, winning on 19 occasions; indeed, Sharjah was akin to a home ground for them more often than not when they played against India there. With Indo-Pak cricket returning to the UAE, here is a look back in time at five of the most memorable desert duels between the neighbouring nations.

Bowlers’ day out: Rothmans Four-Nations Cup Semi-Final, 1984-85

  India prevailed by 38 runs in one of the most extraordinary ODIs ever played. The talismanic Imran Khan took full advantage of a damp pitch after Javed Miandad elected to field first. He dismissed Ravi Shastri leg-before off the very first ball and proceeded to dismantle the top half of the batting line-up in a sensational spell, reducing the score to 34/5.

  It was only due to Mohammad Azharuddin (47) and captain Kapil Dev (30) that India could manage a total of 125. Imran finished with figures of 6/14, then the best by a Pakistani, and seemed to have put his team in the driver’s seat. However, a manic collapse to the leg-spin of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan (2/16) and the left-arm spin of Ravi Shastri (2/17) saw the score slide from 35/1 to 41/5.

  Pakistan failed to recover from this jolt, and Kapil (3/17) ensured that there was no tail-end revival, with the innings ending at 87 in the 33rd over. Imran’s return is still the best in a losing cause in ODIs.

Javed Miandad

          Javed Miandad (holding the trophy) celebrates with his teammates after starring in Pakistan’s Austral-Asia Cup win in 1985-86 (source – http://www.espncricinfo.com)

Magical Miandad sees Pakistan home: Austral-Asia Cup Final, 1985-86

  The inaugural Austral-Asia Cup was a five-nation affair, and eventually it was India and Pakistan who made it to the final. After electing to field, Pakistan bore the brunt of the Indian top order. Kris Srikkanth (75) and Sunil Gavaskar (92) shared 117 for the opening stand, before Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar (50) added 99 for the second wicket.

  Vengsarkar’s dismissal to Wasim Akram (3/42) led to a glut of wickets, and Pakistan fought back to restrict India to 245/7. Pakistan responded scratchily, but Miandad, who came in at 39/2, was undeterred. He put on 71 for the fifth wicket with Abdul Qadir to rescue Pakistan from 110/4.

  The last over, to be bowled by Chetan Sharma, began at 235/7. Two more wickets fell, and the target boiled down to four runs off the final ball. Sharma bowled a full toss, which was coolly smashed for six by Miandad (116* in 114 balls), thus giving Pakistan a one-wicket win and leaving the Indians shell-shocked.

Elahi excels under pressure: Champions Trophy, 1986-87

  This was the last fixture of a round-robin tournament that featured India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. The West Indies had already bagged the title, leaving India and Pakistan to fight it out for the second position. The pace duo of Imran Khan (3/27) and Saleem Jaffar subjected India to a woeful start, reducing them to 16/3, which further became 42/5.

  Just like the 1984-85 game, it was Azharuddin (49) and Kapil (36) who attempted a recovery, pushing the total to 144. Openers Rameez Raja and Shoaib Mohammad began soundly, putting on 51. But the innings soon imploded, with Shastri and fellow left-arm spinner Maninder Singh (4/22) combining to send the score crashing to 65/6.

  Manzoor Elahi walked out at this point, and he shared in a vital stand of 43 with Ijaz Ahmed for the seventh wicket. Saleem Yousuf helped Elahi raise another 37* that resulted in a three-wicket win in the 44th over. Elahi scored a heroic 50* in just 54 balls.

Pakistan squeeze through: Wills Trophy, 1991-92

  Having won their first three games of this tri-series that also involved the West Indies, India were assured of a place in the final. On the other hand, Pakistan had to win this last league match to reach the summit clash. Aamer Sohail (91) took charge after losing his opening partner Saeed Anwar early, laying the platform for a total of 257/7.

  Zahid Fazal (39) and Saleem Malik (42) chipped in with key contributions, and so did skipper Imran, who faced just 24 balls for his 43. Shastri (77) and Vinod Kambli (40) stitched an opening stand of 124 in reply, before the latter’s dismissal led to three quick wickets.

  Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar scored 49 each and added 85 for the fourth wicket, but the asking rate was climbing steadily. Tendulkar was sixth out at 240, giving Pakistan the upper hand. Waqar Younis duly defended 12 in the last over to limit India to 253/6. Pakistan won the final by 72 runs, with Aaqib Javed scalping a record 7/37.

The Sachin and Sidhu show: Pepsi Sharjah Cup, 1995-96

  India had lost the first two games of yet another tri-nation series in Sharjah, making this contest a must-win if they were to stay alive. Waqar (3/44) removed Vikram Rathour with only nine runs on the board, but this set the stage for a mammoth second-wicket alliance between Tendulkar (118) and Navjot Sidhu (101).

  The pair put together 231, then India’s highest ODI partnership for any wicket, to pave the way for an imposing 305/5 – India’s first ever 300-plus total in ODIs. The last over saw Azharuddin plunder 24 off Ata-ur-Rehman. Though Pakistan were further dented by a deduction of two overs due to a slow over-rate, they made a bold reply.

  Sohail (78) and Rashid Latif (50) gave India cause for concern, and the game hung in the balance at 172/2 in the 26th over. Sohail was run out at this crucial stage to hand the edge to India, who ensured that Pakistan were bowled out for 277 in 46.1 overs. India lost to South Africa by 38 runs in the final.

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