First Test

India v Pakistan 1998-1999

Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: S. Ramesh.

The first Test between India and Pakistan for nine years began amid massive security, after vandalism by Hindu extremists had forced the Indian Board to transfer the match from Delhi to Chennai. The Chidambaram Stadium was guarded by 3,000 police and military officials. Well before the end of the game though, the talk was not of politics but of thrilling cricket.

A nail-biting finish on the fourth day saw India, chasing 271, slump to 82 for five - two of the wickets controversially given out by umpire Dunne. When Tendulkar and Mongia combined to add 136 for the sixth wicket, however, they seemed to be on their way to victory. Then Mongia was caught for 52. Still Tendulkar kept going, despite a back strain, and India were only 17 from their target when he holed out at mid-off, trying to hit Saqlain Mushtaq out of the ground. He had batted 405 minutes and scored 136, his 18th Test hundred, including 18 fours. But India's last three wickets added only four more runs; Saqlain finished them off with five for 93, giving him ten for 187 in the match. The Pakistanis bowed to the ground in prayer and embarked on a lap of honour, to a standing ovation from the Chennai crowd, whose sporting behaviour won much praise.

On the opening day, Pakistan chose to bat and were struggling at 91 for five. They fought back through Yousuf Youhana and Moin Khan, who both hit fifties. Wasim Akram added a lusty 38 before Kumble polished off the tail for figures of six for 70. Ramesh, who was making his Test debut on his home ground, and Laxman put on a brisk 48 for India that evening, but both were dismissed by Wasim within half an hour of play resuming. Then Saqlain took the first of his 20 wickets in this series when his tantalising length accounted for Tendulkar; the batsman dashed down the wicket, mis-hit and scooped a catch to backward point for a third-ball duck. But Dravid and Ganguly helped India towards a narrow 16-run lead before the spinners finished them off.

Shahid Afridi took the last three wickets with his leg-breaks, and the third day belonged to him as a batsman. Best known for hitting a 37-ball hundred in a one-day international but playing only his second Test, he disproved the theory that he was merely a limited-overs man by batting more than five hours for 141, striking 21 fours and three sixes, helped mainly by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Salim Malik. At 275 for four, Pakistan looked impregnable. But after tea, six wickets fell for 11. Once Joshi had removed Malik, Prasad had an amazing spell in which he picked up five wickets in 18 balls without conceding a run; he finished with a Test-best six for 33.

That left India needing 271, with the odds against them; their best fourth-innings total to win a home Test was 256 for eight against Australia in 1964-65. Thanks to Tendulkar's century, they almost got there, but Pakistan were victors by a mere 12 runs. Referee Cammie Smith later warned Pakistan captain Wasim about the incessant appealing by close fielders, but even he admitted: It was such a marvellous match you could understand them getting a little carried away.

Man of the Match: S. R. Tendulkar.

Close of play: First day, India 48-0 (Ramesh 30*, Laxman 18*); Second day, Pakistan 34-1 (Shahid Afridi 16*, Ijaz Ahmed 11*); Third day, India 40-2 (Dravid 8*, Tendulkar 20*).

© John Wisden & Co