The skipper walked towards his bowling mark with heavy feet, atmosphere was tense; it was not the final of a cricket World Cup but nothing less than that. The ground was Centurion Park and the day was March 1st, 2003. Pakistan set the total of 272, a formidable target, but the counter attack of India worked so well that on the fifth ball of 46th over the distance between the Indian team and victory was just two runs. Waqar Younis crossed the umpire landed his feet on the crease and delivered the ball that was knocked by Dravid and in no time kissed the boundary line. India won by six wickets and literally ended Pakistan’s dream to get a spot in the next round of the grandest stage of cricket world.

[caption id="attachment_1244" align="alignright" width="300"]Shoaib Akhtar and Rahul Dravid locked horns many times during the match (Photo: Getty Images) Shoaib Akhtar and Rahul Dravid locked horns many times during the match (Photo: Getty Images)[/caption]

Probably the images of this match was on Pakistani players' mind entering the Edgbaston Stadium of Birmingham on September 19th, 2004. It was the 12th match of ICC Champions Trophy 2004. After the horrible and shattered dream of Centurion Park of South Africa, this was the first time the archrivals were taking on each other at a stage set by the ICC.

Pakistan won the toss and looking at the conditions favouring bowlers, the skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq decided to field. The decision proved right by the opening pacer Mohammad Sami who sent Sourav Ganguly back to the pavilion on the third ball of the match. Three overs later Rana Naveed got the wicket of VVS Laxman at a time when total was just nine. Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif tried to push the runs a bit farther and when the score reached 28, a flick by Sehwag on a full-length ball of Naveed was caught by Shoaib Malik. This marked the entrance of the “Wall”, Rahul Dravid, in the ground. He came in and later on played the kind of innings he was famous for. Kaif helped Dravid to bring India out of the trouble and made partnership of 45 in 10 overs.

The batting duo were looking comfortable playing against the bowlers introduced so far, but the speedster Shoaib Akhtar proved a bad omen for them as he was on his best moments of fitness during that season.

In the 20th over, Shoaib Akhtar first took the wicket of Kaif and then just three deliveries later Yuvraj Singh was on his way back to the dressing room. Half of the Indian batting line-up was back to the benches when the total was still under three figures. Later on Rohan Gavaskar became the victim of Abdul Razzaq after scoring a snail-paced 12 runs.

Ajit Agarkar joined the wall at such difficult time and convincingly supported Rahul Dravid who desperately needed a partner like him. They kept adding runs, though slowly, to the total and on the fifth ball of the 42nd over, Dravid completed his fifty. The half-century came as a morale booster for both men in blue and every over after that started to feature at least two boundaries. The total reached 182 after 46 overs.

The master of slow ball Rana Naveed bowled first five balls of his over very tightly and as a result, the cool-as-cucumber Dravid donated his wicket to him as he was caught and bowled on the final delivery of the 47th over. The crack in wall affected Agarkar too and he got out eight balls later when he was just three runs short of his half century. Agarkar’s wicket was the fourth one for Rana Naveed. In the final over Shoaib Akhtar dusted his hands with the tail-enders and made India all out at just 200 runs by taking wickets of Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra.

In the reply, Pakistan had a similar horrible start as the opener Imran Farhat got out in the first over without scoring a single run. The next man in was Shoaib Malik who became the victim of Pathan just after he converted the total into double figures with a boundary. The skipper sensed the trouble and joined the young man Yasir Hameed. The batting pair kept ticking the scorecard but Pathan was out there with the aim of some real business. In the 11th over when the score was 27, Hameed fell prey to Pathan. The next man in was the Pakistani version of the “Wall” better known as Muhammad Yousuf (Yousuf Youhana then). Inzamam and Yousuf showed that why experience really matters, both of them played sensible cricket and countered almost every bowler Ganguly had in his arsenal for that match. Pakistan, who were tumbling at 27, convincingly crossed the 100-run mark. The 75-run Inzi-Yusi partnership ended when Rahul Dravid took the catch of Inzamam, playing at 41, on an Agarkar’s delivery.

Abdul Razzaq joined Yousuf at the crease and helped him complete his fifth ODI fifty against India. However, this partnership only lasted 25 runs and Razzaq caused an inside edge, trying to cut the off spin of Sehwag at the back foot, and ended his innings. Pakistan was again in trouble as five wickets were down at 128 and still 73 runs needed on 84 balls. Moin Khan and Yusuf added another 25 runs to the total and the partnership ended when Yuvraj Sing showed his fielding skills and took a brilliant catch of Moin. Shahid Afridi was the last man in before the tail. Pakistan needed another 50 runs on 59 balls. The first bold single opened the account of Afridi’s innings, the beginning of which was with a stupid run showing no-matter-what-the-circumstances-are attitude of Afridi.

The lecture from Yousuf to Afridi lasted only eleven balls and Afridi swung his bat to his left to score his 167th ODI six and on the next ball cleared the fence again at the midwicket. Two consecutive sixes brought oxygen back to the fading run rate of Pakistan. Afridi scored another four before getting out at the hands of Yuvraj Singh. On the other end, Yousuf kept adding singles and doubles to the total with his head down. The 25 runs by Afridi on 11 balls made Pakistan to need another 13 runs when the 46th over was about to start. The jinx of the 45th over was over.

Rana Naveed and Yousuf Youhana kept scoring singles and doubles and kept playing with the nerves. On the second last ball of the second last over, Yousuf scored a single on the delivery of Nehra to level score. On the second delivery of the last over Yousuf went to his backfoot played the same shot that Razaq got out while playing. There was a huge shout but that shout was more to cover the ignominy of losing the match. Yes, Pakistan won the contest, first time in an ICC tournament Pakistan got victory over India. The defending champions of the Champions Trophy were out from the race of next round celebrations and electricity filled the whole Edgbaston Cricket Stadium. Yousuf was declared man of the match. The account of Centurion Park was settled, and it started an unbeaten streak of Pakistan against India in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Share To:


Post A Comment:

0 comments so far,add yours