Fire, rage and anguish

Bangalore and Kolkata erupt, but in different ways

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Venkatesh Prasad celebrates after bowling Aamer Sohail, India v Pakistan, World Cup quarter-final, March 1996
Against Pakistan, Prasad emerged triumphant, but he was on the receiving end in the semi-final against Sri Lanka © Getty Images
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Series/Tournaments: Wills World Cup

Prasad takes out Sohail
India v Pakistan, Bangalore
The quarter-final between India and Pakistan in Bangalore was the showpiece of the World Cup. There was controversy, with Pakistan captain Wasim Akram pulling out at the last minute, high-voltage tension, quality Indian batting, led by Navjot Sidhu's fighting 93 and boosted by Ajay Jadeja's ballistic 25-ball 45, and a sensational riposte, with Pakistan openers 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 had gone wild during 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 aggressively with the bat as if to say, "Go fetch that." Sohail tried to repeat the slash off the next ball, despite it being on off stump, and was comprehensively bowled. A charged-up Prasad gave him a send-off ("Go home you ****ng bastard") and the quiet tension suddenly gave way to an eruption, as the crowd realised the tide had turned.

Pakistan lost the crucial wickets of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq in the next few overs and veterans like Saleem Malik and Javed Miandad were not up to matching 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 his side muscles, was burned in effigy. Sohail was vilified for his moment of indiscretion and the game also heralded the end of Miandad's career, one that had spanned three decades.

Eden on fire
India v Sri Lanka, first semi-final, Calcutta
A tense quarter-final over Pakistan had drained India emotionally. There was a small matter of the semi-final to think of but premature celebrations of a World Cup triumph had already begun. Aamer Sohail, Pakistan's stand-in captain, had summed up the mood when he wished India good luck "in the final at Lahore". But when India collapsed spectacularly, losing 7 for 22, after being on course at 98 for 1 chasing 252, some sections of the Eden Gardens crowd threw bottles on to the outfield and set fire to the seating. Match referee Clive Lloyd took the teams off for 15 minutes, attempted a restart, and then awarded Sri Lanka the game by default.

Vinod Kambli, who batted at No. 5, had watched partners walk in and leave after being unable to come to grips with the vicious turn the Sri Lankan spinners were extracting from the pitch. Kambli, usually a fluent strokemaker, had pottered around for 49 minutes for just 10 runs and hadn't yet managed a boundary. Walking off the field, Kambli couldn't contain himself, bursting into tears. It would need a miracle for India to win from there - close to nine an over on a raging turner - and Kambli's spontaneous outburst captured India's frustration. Not only had he run out of support, he also had to endure the ignominy of conceding the match before its conclusion. It was an intensely embarrassing moment for the hosts - one spectator raised a banner reading "Congratulations Sri Lanka, we are sorry" - and Kambli's tears symbolised both the anguish and the shame.

Just like the Pakistan fans four days earlier, India's public raged against their unsuccessful players and a guard was put outside their captain Mohammad Azharuddin's house. Kambli's next 35 one-dayers for India were forgettable - he averaged 19.31 with three fifties - and he never attained the heights that made him a hero back in 1993. He had already played his final Test, back in November 1995, and will forever be remembered as a prodigy who slipped on the threshold of greatness.

Lara's hurry
Kenya v West Indies, Pune
West Indies were two-time champions and three-time finalists, while Kenya's initiation into ODI cricket had only begun in the World Cup. Admittedly, the West Indian camp wasn't a picture of harmony, with rumblings about team unity as Riche Richardson approached the end of his tenure as captain. Nonetheless, almost nobody expected anything but a mismatch.


Fanatic Indian supporters cause a riot in the Eden Garden stands, 1st semi-final, India v Sri Lanka, Wills World Cup, Kolkata, March 13, 1996
Spectators at the Eden Gardens showed their displeasure via arson © Getty Images
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It appeared to be headed that way after West Indies put the Kenyans in and dismissed them for 166. Courtney Walsh scalped the top three and Curtly Ambrose and Roger Harper took five wickets between them. The West Indian wicketkeeper Jimmy Adams also equalled the World Cup record of five dismissals. Steve Tikolo top-scored with 29 but the highest contribution to Kenya's score had come from extras - 37.

West Indies lost their openers early, but at 22 for 2, with Brian Lara batting, there was no cause for concern. The way Lara batted, however, was a cause for concern. After a crisp cover drive off the first ball he faced, he played like a man in a benefit match. Within half a dozen balls, Roland Holder, the 12th man, had scurried to the middle with a bottle of water and, presumably, a message for him to calm down. It went unheeded. He swished and missed twice more and should have been run out in the first 10 balls.

The end was not surprising. Rajab Ali bowled a ball outside off stump with a hint of swing and Lara aimed a massively optimistic back-foot drive and got a thick edge to wicketkeeper Tariq Iqbal, "bearded and bespectacled, wearing a blue headband and a double chin," noted the Guardian, who "had dropped the ball so many times before that his own bowlers were laughing at him." The Daily Telegraph said: "The ball sank somewhere into his nether regions and the gloves clutched desperately, trying to locate it. Then, glory be, it reappeared in his hands and was raised aloft in triumph and relief."

From there West Indies imploded, getting bowled out for 93 and sliding to a humiliating 73-run defeat. While the Kenyans rejoiced, the Caribbean media started sounding death knells for the game in the region.

© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

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