India v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Asia Cup, Dambulla June 19, 2010

Emotions hit fever pitch in iconic rivalry

India and Pakistan played out a bare-knuckle brawl that had all the intensity of the more famous matches of the illustrious rivalry. All that was lacking was a capacity crowd to witness it

There were vast swathes of empty seats in Dambulla, but even without a capacity crowd to incite the players, India and Pakistan played out a bare-knuckle brawl that had all the intensity of the more famous matches of the illustrious rivalry. It had been nearly three years since the teams were involved in a last-over finish, and the tightness of the contest brought out the sparks.

Most of all, you could feel the intensity towards the death. You could see it when Suresh Raina was standing with hands on hips staring at the dressing-room with the entire Pakistan team in a celebratory huddle a few metres behind. India's last remaining specialist batsman was waiting for a third-umpire's decision after a desperate dive to sneak a bye and get on strike in the final over.

It was in the previous edition of the Asia Cup that his international career got going, and here he was dragging India to the brink of the finish line in the headline-match of the tournament. A topsy-turvy match seemed headed Pakistan's way after the dismissal of MS Dhoni in the 43rd over, but a flurry of boundaries had brought it down to six off five deliveries. Raina was out by a whisker, and he swung the bat furiously at the ground before trudging off.

India still had a man who thrives in a scrap, and has several meetings with match referees to prove it. Harbhajan Singh's most famous moment with a bat in hand is when he squirted Glenn McGrath past point for two to clinch a riveting Test series in 2001. Today's display is likely to slot in at No. 2. He was already involved in a verbal volley with another man with a long disciplinary record, Shoaib Akhtar, after failing to connect with the final two deliveries of the penultimate over.

A charged-up Harbhajan was back on strike only on the fifth ball of the final over, with three runs to get. A big swipe sent the ball rocketing over midwicket. Arms outstretched, he let out a victory cry, making sure to turn to Shoaib at third man and give him the message. Raina, a picture of despair moments earlier, was the first man to embrace Harbhajan.

Such scenes hardly looked likely when the contest got underway. It had started out like any other run-of-the-mill one-dayer, with the first half of the match being incident-free. But once Pakistan had been pulled back from a potential 300 to a more manageable but still taxing 267, it was time for the strongest suits of the two teams to face off - Pakistan's bowling against India's batting.

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are among the most accomplished opening pairs in the world but they had a rough time in the face of a high-quality opening spell from Shoaib, frequently topping the 90mph mark, and Mohammad Aamer, cleverly utilising the left-armer's natural angle. Sehwag, a man who started the tour of New Zealand by whacking his first three deliveries for six, took an unusual 12 balls to get off the mark. Gambhir had trouble even with his go-to shot on the off side - the dab in the arc between point and third man - being beaten early and once bottom-edging past the keeper for four.

India lost a couple of wickets and the match switched to slow-burn mode with the side's two most versatile batsmen at the crease- Dhoni and Gambhir. They set about accumulating runs mostly in singles but it was a hard grind.

Gambhir is widely regarded as one of the finest batsmen against spin in India, but he was routinely found out by Saeed Ajmal, whose doosra he struggled to pick under the Dambulla floodlights. He outside-edged an offbreak past the keeper for four in the 19th over, and the very next ball was a doosra which cramped him as he went for the big cut. There was a let-off on 69 when Aamer dropped a dolly at long-off, and in the 34th over another Ajmal doosra baffled him to the extent that he was hit on the arm as he tried to glide it.

Gambhir had unfinished business with Pakistan: he had glided his way to 57 the last time these sides met, in the Champions Trophy in South Africa last year, when he was dismissed through a lazy bit of running. He set about correcting that by grafting his way to his second substantial score of the tournament despite not looking his fluent best.

As he soldiered on, things came to a head when a loud caught-behind appeal from Kamran Akmal led to an exchange of words. Dhoni quickly separated the two, but on more chirping from Akmal, Gambhir walked up to him and the pair stared each other down before the umpires ended the incident. Gambhir was bristling about it right through the drinks break. He was eventually dismissed by his tormentor of the day, Ajmal, for 83, but spared the heartburn of another defeat at the hands of Pakistan by the heroics of Harbhajan.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 4thelement on June 22, 2010, 10:48 GMT

    Hello all of the indians: The match india lost in champions trophy was a complete outclassed. India was flatened by the Pakistan and the match was ended before the 45th over cud end. You cant compare that game with this one india was completely outclassed in that game even Raina's presence cudnt have made any difference. But this game ended on the 2nd last delivery of the match and those two wrong decisions in favour of india and the attitude of Gambhir and Harbhajan are the true facts which must be accepted by all of the indian fans.

  • on June 22, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    For the statistics lovers. WI were the King of Cricket for a long time in the early days. They won lot of games in the past . So they have a good statistics over other teams. So do you think they are a good team now???

    Just check these statics . It reflects the the win/losss based on current players. Grow up ppl. :-);home_or_away=1;home_or_away=2;home_or_away=3;host=6;host=7;opposition=6;spanmin1=01+Jan+2000;spanval1=span;team=7;template=results;type=team

  • Mantan on June 22, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    As far as umpiring in 80s is concerened Indian and Pakistani umpiars were equally corrupt so Pakistan's lead over India cant be just because of umpiring becoz both teams had equal support from their umpires. Those talking about money provided by India in cricket should keep it with India and its corrupt IPL. No body needs your money.

  • needgreenpitches4bowlingallrounders on June 21, 2010, 22:04 GMT

    Dinesh Karthik (DK)-- who wants hiim to open? why is DK given so many chances? does anyone see DK is going to get WC chance also if chikka continious? if sehu/GG/SRT two of these 3 r in team them DK is not even needed in 15?

    SOLUTION:Why don't we not send any replacement for asia cup. Play rohit/kohli/dhoni/tiwari as opener even Praveen kumar does open. if replacement is needed just send ROBIN UTHAPPA. CONGRATES SRIKANTH U DID IT DINESH IS BACK !!!! Dirty politcs

  • 4thelement on June 21, 2010, 19:15 GMT

    Well leave it guys!! India won it was their day they fielded well and unfortunately those two wrong decisions went in their favour. But Pakistan played really well they looked like a united entity after so many problems among the team composition during last two years. They looked quite improved and despite being such a young side they played awesome cricket they almost won both of the games against SL and IND and i believe they have lots of better prospectes achieved through this tournament that would help them in the days to come!!! Well played Pakistan!! You won it ethically....

  • dummy4fb on June 21, 2010, 18:26 GMT

    All those who talking abt past records ... pull out matches played in sharjah .. in all those matches umpires should have been man of the match ... world knws abt pathetic umpiring standards in pakistan ... in those LBW used to stand for leg before wide !!!!

    Yeah pakistan was better side in 80's ... but now its changed bcos Indian's worked on there weakness and u ppl were dreaming and jst stayed in past ...

    Also u can jst talk abt past records .. as everyone stays there in past and never shows any signs of development weather its cricket or politics or even normal life

    Such soar loser are these pakistani's ... can never accept defeat .. talking abt raina's LBW ... go check raina's wicket in champion trophy which cost india match ... but there was no reaction for Indians and everyone accepted peacefully ....

    I think BCCI should reject all proposals to play against such stubborn country and dn only they can understand were the stand in terms of money sponser and even talent !!!

  • dummy4fb on June 21, 2010, 12:54 GMT

    dude, i followed this match from the very first to the very last over and i dont think anyone can say that one team behaved nicer than the other unless u are biased.

  • dummy4fb on June 21, 2010, 12:31 GMT

    Posted by Ajatt Rahf on (June 21 2010, 03:08 AM GMT) What a roar by Harbhajan. Shoaib was ashamed and even unsportsman when didnt hand shake with bhajji even after the match. What a bunch of sore losers Pakis are

    I dont know what are you talking about Shoaib did shake Harbhajan's hand see the video on youtube

  • Agni_25 on June 21, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    @abrar ahmed, have u seen dis match? B4 commenting on Gambhir and Bhaji's sportsmanship or b4 slapping them, u shud accept honestly dat claiming 4 a so called (only by akmal) clean catch is a gud show of sportsmanship and dignified behaviour of the xcellent speedster shown towards a 7th down player 4 hammering a six is beautiful display of sportsmanship. probably @abrar ahmed shud teach onfield behaviour to paki's. @abrar ahmed u r pathetic.

    4 ppl who say India's chase lacked intend. They shud be allowed to play in Dambulla under lights. U cant spot a futball in those conditions. Learn 2 appreciate things.

    4 those ind and pak guys having verbal fight, did u guys see Indian and pakistani players discussing in friendly manner during presentation. Plz learn to appreciate each others success. I'm really shockd 2 c comments like this frm educatd. BE UNITED. territorial separation is ONLY 4 EASINESS IN ADMINISTRATION. IN THE END, remember ITS ONLY ONE WORLD. Lets live as friends.

  • jashan83 on June 21, 2010, 11:57 GMT

    Good to see India hold their nerves. I read so many Paki fans trying to bring in old times like how they won in Champion's trophy or Miandad. Well I would just say, life is not about past. It's about present. Whatever be the case in past it doesn't matter. Indian team seemed to understand it very well. After the match they immediately shaked hands (They initiated and even Gambir & Bhajji were shaking hands) with the Paki players. And given the state of Pakistani economy and terror structure nobody is ready to play. hence at this present moment it's best in Paki interest not to flare anyone. They should rem that PCB fortune's will brighten up if they are able to have a series with India abroad also. Even the last time India went to Pakistan, most of the sponsorship money came from Indian companies. Hence in best interest of Cricket and Pakistan they should take the loss in a good spirit and look for next time.

  • No featured comments at the moment.