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For the second year running, the main talking point of the Sahara Cup concerned off-field activities. In 1997, it was Inzamam-ul-Haq wielding a bat at an abusive spectator; a year later, despite rumours that an interim report by the Pakistan Cricket Board had found several players guilty of match-fixing, the vexed issue was nothing more sinister than team selection.
In an increasingly crowded schedule, some players were needed on three fronts: Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq were involved in the climax of the County Championship, while both countries were contesting the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and the Sahara Cup in Toronto. Whereas Pakistan sent an A team to Malaysia, the Indian Board announced it would field formidable squads for both events, and packed Ajay Jadeja, Anil Kumble, Robin Singh and Sachin Tendulkar off to the Commonwealth Games.
As results began to go against them in Toronto, India became desperate to fly in reinforcements. The Pakistan Board, however, argued that only those named in the original squad were eligible. The squabble seemed to unsettle Mohammad Azharuddin's team, who lost the last four matches. Eventually, Jadeja, weary from a long flight, was allowed to play in the fourth game, while Tendulkar jetted in for the fifth, an expensive and ultimately futile gesture.
Pakistan fielded almost their strongest team - Wasim stayed put at Old Trafford, but Saqlain arrived after their first victory - and recovered well from an early defeat to win 4-1. All the batsmen got runs in at least one game: Shahid Afridi hit a hundred, while Inzamam won the series award for his consistent batting. And Salim Malik, having spent a year in the wilderness after allegations of match-rigging, celebrated his return by passing 7,000 runs in limited-overs internationals.
Sourav Ganguly saw India to victory in the opening match, but injury kept him out of the next, and he never recaptured his Canadian form of 1997. The brittle Indian batting had mustered only two fifties before the last game, and seemed as reliant upon Tendulkar as ever. And, despite the amount of one-day cricket India play, both the fielding and the running between wickets were substandard.
Match reports for
1st ODI: India v Pakistan at Toronto, Sep 12, 1998