ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

India v Pakistan

One resounding stroke

Dileep Premachandran

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Pakistan 248 for 9 (Miandad 116*) beat India 245 for 7 (Gavaskar 92, Srikkanth 75) by 1 wicket
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Javed Miandad: the last-ball hero © Getty Images
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Almost two decades later, Javed Miandad, the scrapper who knew not how to throw in the towel, would confess to having almost done just that. When Imran Khan departed with 37 runs still needed, Pakistan needed eight an over. "I thought then that we had no serious chance of victory," wrote Miandad in his autobiography. "I just wanted to salvage some pride for Pakistan. I had no plan, other than to bat out the full fifty overs in the hope that we would at least lose with some dignity."

He managed far more. With 31 needed from the final three overs, Miandad whittled the target down to 18 with the aid of a superb six over long-on off Chetan Sharma. But despite the presence of the big-hitting Wasim Akram in the middle, Pakistan could manage just seven from Kapil Dev's final over, leaving Sharma, a 20-year-old who had already earned 28 ODI caps, with the task of denying Miandad, who had cut his way to an imperious hundred in his previous over.

But though Akram was run out going for a second run off the first ball, Miandad smashed the next to the mid-on fence to ease the pressure. The next delivery was fetched nonchalantly from outside off stump, but a splendid diving stop from Roger Binny kept the batsmen to just one. Zulqarnain's swat at the ensuing ball saw the stumps rearranged, leaving Tauseef Ahmed, a man with no great batting pedigree, to conjure up five from the last two balls. With Miandad urging him to scamper a single at any cost, Tauseef tipped the ball to short-cover and set off. Mohammad Azharuddin, India's premier fielder, pounced and picked up in one fluid motion but, crucially, his shy at the stumps missed with Tauseef still yards short.

With four needed, it was merely a question of who would blink first. Miandad, with more than a decade of experience behind him, anticipated the yorker, and sure enough, Sharma attempted just that. But when the ball slipped out of the hand, the potentially lethal stump-wrecker metamorphosed into a woeful leg-side full toss. For those watching, time stood still as Miandad's bat arced swiftly to send the ball soaring over the midwicket boundary. It was a heist that would have done Ronald Biggs and friends proud, and Miandad himself admitted: "Up until the final delivery, India's dominance remained supreme."

That dominance had been built on a stolid 92 from Sunil Gavaskar, buttressed by half-centuries from Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Dilip Vengsarkar. And with Pakistan's top order not doing enough to supplement Miandad's courageous effort, it appeared that the Indian total of 245 would be more than enough, in an age when turbo-charged starts and pinch-hitting were almost unheard of.

In retrospect, that one resounding stroke was to signify far more than a final won. For years afterwards, India were no match for Pakistan in the one-day arena, shell-shock victims unable to regain a sense of perspective. There may have been tears in the Pakistani dressing room that evening, but it was India that were to weep over the unimaginably deep Miandad-inflicted cuts for the best part of a decade.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo.

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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