India v Pakistan

An epochal moment

Pakistan 116 (Maninder 7-27) and 249 (Rameez 47, Yousuf 41*, Shastri 4-69) bt India 145 (Vengsarkar 50, Qasim 5-48, Tauseef 5-54) and 204 (Gavaskar 96) by 16 runs

Sunil Gavaskar: a valiant 96 in his final Test © Getty Images

A dour series characterised by safety-first tactics and lack of initiative exploded into life on a Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch that might have been prepared by Pol Pot's henchmen rather than a curator. But all these years later, despite the eyebrows raised over the diabolical playing surface, memories of that Test centre around one of the great pyrrhic efforts in the history of the game.

Sunil Gavaskar's 320-minute vigil spanned 264 balls, on a pitch where only one other batsman - Imran Khan - lasted more than two hours. More importantly, it held the fabric of the final-innings chase together despite periodic incisions from Wasim Akram, Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed. But once Gavaskar fell for 96, adjudged caught after the ball brushed his arm-guard, India folded to leave Pakistan victorious by the wafer-thin margin of 16 runs.

Pakistan had made their luck after being skittled out for 116 at the first time of asking. On one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it opening days, Maninder Singh picked up seven of 12 wickets to fall as India appeared to take an iron-fisted grip. After Kapil Dev had made the early breakthroughs, Maninder's beguiling loop and guile flummoxed the batsmen on a surface where the ball was already starting to turn at alarming angles.

But Qasim and Tauseef, slow left-arm complemented by sharp offspin, then triggered a stunning collapse that saw India lose their last six wickets for just 19. And with the destiny of the series in the balance, Pakistan dug deep in the second innings, even promoting Javed Miandad to open in a bid to thwart Maninder and friends. Rameez Raja, Imran, Saleem Malik and even Qasim chipped in with gritty contributions, but Indian shoulders really sagged after Salim Yousuf, the wicketkeeper, ground out a priceless 41, adding 51 for the ninth wicket with the stonewalling Tauseef.

Needing 221 for the win, India went into the rest day on 99 for 4, with Gavaskar having compiled a masterly 51. More than the shots he played, or the precision of his footwork, what took the breath away was his judgement of which balls to leave and which to smother with that straightest of defensive bats.

The following evening, he threw a party at the team hotel, mere hours before he would once more step onto the burning deck, as he had done countless times during his halcyon years. Facing him would be Qasim, who had been given invaluable tips on the line and length to bowl by that prince among left-arm spinners, Bishan Singh Bedi.

Qasim teased both Azharuddin and Shastri into lofting back return catches, and when he then bowled a restless Kapil, the momentum had swung irrevocably away from India. Gavaskar followed soon after, and as he trudged off, many teary eyes knew that he would never again step into the breach for an Indian side. But the exit of one living legend prompted another, Imran, to cajole his courageous side towards an epochal victory, and a first series triumph on Indian soil.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo.