Specials – ODI cricket in Singapore, Part 3

  India were due to play in their third consecutive ODI tournament in Singapore, but pulled out at the last minute, citing that it would not be appropriate to take part during the match-fixing crisis. Pakistan came in instead, joining New Zealand and South Africa for the Godrej Singapore Challenge held at the Kallang Ground from August 20-27, 2000. As was the case in 1995-96 and 1999, rain made its presence felt.

  Pakistan had to make do with a depleted squad, what with the absence of their wicketkeeper-captain Moin Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shoaib Akhar due to injuries, as also of Wasim Akram, who was on a break, and Saqlain Mushtaq, who was on county duty in England. South Africa too were missing a few key players such as pace ace Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. 

New Zealand v Pakistan

  Pakistan were given a flying start by Shahid Afridi (33) after being put in to bat in this rain-reduced 25-over game, and went on to post a sturdy 191/6. The cornerstone was a fourth-wicket stand of 76 between Yousuf Youhana (46) and Ijaz Ahmed (49) that stabilised the innings after the score had fallen to 76/3. Left-arm pacer Geoff Allott (3/33) and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori (2/23) were the Kiwis’ best bowlers.

  Chris Cairns was promoted to open, and he hit a quick 21 before falling to stand-in captain Waqar Younis (2/22). Roger Twose (35) and Chris Harris (40) came together at 70/3 and put on 65 for the fourth wicket, but the former’s dismissal to off-spinner Arshad Khan (3/45) led to the loss of seven wickets for 44. With New Zealand still needing 13 in three balls, Waqar bowled Scott Styris to ensure victory for his team. 

Pakistan v South Africa

  Pakistan entered the final with a successful defence of a moderate total. Openers Imran Nazir and Afridi put on 56, but the score soon fell to 81/4, with Jacques Kallis (2/19) particularly bowling well. Ijaz (56) was part of a meaty partnership again, this time combining with Abdul Razzaq (47) to add 104 in 24 overs for the fifth wicket, which steered Pakistan to a fighting 227/9. There were 28 extras in the innings.

  South Africa too began positively, with Gary Kirsten (54) and Andrew Hall sharing 61 for the first wicket, but a middle-order wobble saw the score get reduced to 129/5 in the 32nd over. Neil McKenzie (41) and debutant wicketkeeper Nic Pothas put on 63 for the sixth wicket before Azhar Mehmood (3/37) removed the latter. The score was now 192/6 after 46 overs, and Pakistan were fast gaining the edge.

  A target of 36 from four overs took its toll on the lower order, as the last four wickets fell for just seven runs. Razzaq, who had earlier taken the wicket of Lance Klusener, added the scalps of captain Shaun Pollock and McKenzie, thus ending with 3/39 (all three victims were bowled) and the Man of the Match award. McKenzie was last out at 199, leaving Pakistan victors with eight balls left.

New Zealand v South Africa

  The winner of this game would meet Pakistan in the final. Things went awry for New Zealand from the first over itself, when Vettori, unusually sent in to open, was dismissed by Pollock (3/24) for a duck. Besides Pollock, Kallis (2/15) and Hall (2/14) also contributed towards New Zealand’s downfall, and the innings subsided to 158 in 47.4 overs. The top-scorer was Chris Harris, who came in at 55/5 and made 42.

Singapore Challenge, 2000

         South Africa’s Nicky Boje in action against Pakistan’s Azhar Mahmood during his knock of 54 in the final of the Singapore Challenge in 2000 (source – AFP)

  The dependable Kirsten scored an unbeaten 75 to extinguish any hopes that New Zealand might have harboured. His opening stand with Hall (46) realised 94, following which he added another 47 with Kallis for the second wicket. He also crossed the 5000-run mark in ODIs during the course of his innings. South Africa duly cruised into the final with a facile eight-wicket win with 16 overs to spare.  

The Final

  The final, played in front of a packed house, was reduced to 35 overs per side when rain interrupted South Africa’s innings at 70/2 after 15 overs. Having elected to bat, South Africa lost Hall and Kallis early to stutter to 29/2, but the left-handed pair of Kirsten and Nicky Boje blunted the Pakistani bowling thereafter. They continued from where they left after the lengthy rain break to put South Africa in command.

  The third-wicket partnership between Kirsten and Boje had fetched 97 in less than 14 overs when the former was bowled by Mahmood for a 77-ball 62, his third fifty in as many games, that swelled his tournament run tally to 191. Boje too reached his fifty, finishing with 54 from 48 balls. Daryll Cullinan’s brisk 31* gave the innings a further boost, and propelled the South African total to 197/7 after the 35 overs.

  Pakistan’s rain-revised target was 215 from 35 overs. Pollock (2/26) and Roger Telamachus (2/20) reduced them to 35/3, making the chase an arduous task for the batsmen to follow. Pakistan failed to recover, and the score nosedived to 76/6 in the 19th over and finally to 121 in 28.1 overs. The only substantial stand was worth 39 for the fourth wicket between Saeed Anwar and Ijaz, who top-scored with 31.  

Player of the Tournament: Gary Kirsten (191 runs at an average of 95.50 and a strike rate of 73.46)

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