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Booed at home, an India bowler provides a fitting reply
This was always going to be the showpiece event of the 1996 World Cup. India v Pakistan in a knockout clash in a quarter-final in Bangalore had all the makings of a classic. There was controversy, with captain Wasim Akram pulling out at the last minute; high-voltage tension - a pent-up sort, where a riot was just a step away; quality Indian batting, led by Navjot Singh Sidhu's fighting 93 and boosted by Ajay Jadeja's ballistic 25-ball 45; and a sensational riposte, with Saeed Anwar and stand-in captain Aamer Sohail thumping 84 off the first 10 overs. The 35,000 spectators packed into the Chinnaswamy Stadium, who'd gone wild at the end of the Indian innings, were almost in a state of shock, silently praying for a breakthrough.
Anwar fell with the score on 84 but Sohail continued to shred the opening bowlers. He brought up his fifty at more than a run a ball and celebrated with a sizzling slash off Venkatesh Prasad, who was booed in certain stands despite being a local. Once the ball had raced away to the extra-cover fence, Sohail openly lampooned Prasad, pointing to the region with the bat as if to say, "Go, fetch that". Sohail tried to repeat the slash off the next ball, though it was on off stump, and was comprehensively bowled. A charged-up Prasad gave him a send-off ("Go home, you f****** bastard") and the quiet tension suddenly gave way to an eruption, as the crowd realised that the tide had turned.
It was undoubtedly the point where the game turned, with Sohail paying the price for not controlling his aggression. "Pakistan stand-in captain Aamir Sohail won his battle against the interfering ways of former captain Javed Miandad, who he banished to the outfield," wrote R Mohan in the 1996 Indian Cricket annual, "but he did not win the battle against his own temper, which he lost when he was right on top of the bowling and was hitting the seamers where he wished. It was a moment of the match when Prasad bowled him. Or was Sohail bowled by his own hot temper?"
What happened next
Pakistan lost the crucial wickets of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq in the next few overs, and veterans like Saleem Malik and Miandad were not up to the demands of a climbing asking rate. India went on to complete a hugely popular win, and all those out on the streets of Bangalore witnessed a joyous victory parade. The reactions in Pakistan were vitriolic: one fan reportedly shot his television and then himself, while Akram, who didn't play after rupturing muscles in his side, was burned in effigy. Sohail was vilified for his moment of madness, and the game also heralded the end of Miandad's career, one that had spanned three decades. India went on to meet Sri Lanka in the semi-final in Kolkata but were outsmarted in yet another charged encounter, one that was disrupted by crowd violence and awarded to the eventual champions.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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