Five other dead rubbers
The format for the four-nation tournament, also featuring West Indies and Sri Lanka, had the teams play each other once in a round-robin format with the team with the most wins declared the winner. West Indies, having swept all three games, took the title, consigning the final match between India and Pakistan to a dead rubber. It wasn't short of excitement, though. Imran Khan took advantage of the helpful conditions to remove India's top three, bowling them out for a paltry 144 in just over 40 overs. Pakistan didn't have it easy. They slipped from a comfortable 51 for 1 to 65 for 6, with Maninder Singh finishing with 4 for 22. Manzoor Elahi rescued Pakistan with a brisk, unbeaten 50 to steer Pakistan to a three-wicket win, to take second place.
Another exciting, yet inconsequential game. Pakistan came into the final ODI with an unassailable 4-1 lead in the series. Imran Khan put India in and the openers responded with a stand of 154 with Manoj Prabhakar scoring his maiden ODI century. Dilip Vengsarkar's aggressive fifty took India to a strong 265 in the allotted 44 overs. Ijaz Ahmed's 72 gave the chase a boost, but it went down to the wire with Pakistan needing 12 off the final over. Javed Miandad, no stranger to tense finishes between the two sides, sealed the deal, marking the end of a very successful tour for Pakistan.
India dominated the second edition of the Sahara Cup, winning the first three ODIs. The fourth game was reduced to 28 overs a side due to rain and Pakistan managed 159 for 6. Sourav Ganguly, who was in sensational form with the bat and ball through the tour, was the architect of India's fourth consecutive win, smashing an unbeaten 75. Ganguly aside, the quality of cricket wasn't the greatest. India's tardy over-rate siphoned off two overs when they came out to bat in an already truncated match. Pakistan had a tough time overcoming Ganguly and the cold, with the temperature dropping to 12 degrees. Pakistan botched three run-out chances, Moin Khan missed a stumping off Ajay Jadeja and Mohammad Akram back-pedalled at the boundary and palmed a six over his head during the tense final chases giving Ganguly a life. It was so cold, that even the commentator Geoff Boycott, though used to freezing temperatures in his native Yorkshire, covered his face with his jacket before an interview in the open air after the game, leading to plenty of laughter among the camera crew.
In a tri-series just a month before the World Cup, the two neighbours got together along with England in Sharjah. England managed a solitary win out of their four league matches which kept them out of the final even before this last league game between India and Pakistan. Javagal Srinath gave way to a 22-year old Ajit Agarkar and Pakistan switched back to their opening combination of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar. Pakistan won the toss but failed to capitalise as they were reduced to 110 for 5, including two run-outs. Fifties from Saleem Mailk and Moin Khan steered them to a modest 205. India didn't have to toil as much after losing the first wicket. S Ramesh and Rahul Dravid scored 82 and 81 respectively before falling to run-outs but India cruised home with six wickets in hand.
In a series sandwiched between the Test and ODI series of England's tour of India, Pakistan hopped over for two Twenty20s and three ODIs. The T20 series was shared and Pakistan's fast bowlers, along with Nasir Jamshed's consecutive hundreds, wrapped the series in the first two ODIs. In the third, Ajinkya Rahane took Virender Sehwag's place and Shami Ahmed made his ODI debut replacing Ashok Dinda. For Pakistan, Umar Akmal was given a chance in place of Azhar Ali. The match was played in he first week of January in Delhi, where the temperature was a mere three degrees minutes before the toss. Pakistan's quicks stifled the Indian batsmen yet again in the Powerplay overs. 37 for 3 and then 63 for 4. However, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja pulled India's total past 150 but Saeed Ajmal's five-for made sure they were all out for 167. Bhuvneshwar Kumar broke the opening partnership for the second time in three matches and the remaining bowlers cashed-in from there. Misbah-ul Haq was the only batsman to cross the score of 35 as wickets fell at the other end. Ishant Sharma's 3 for 36 got the lower order to wrap-up a 10-run consolatory win for the hosts.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor