(This is the 1st episode of the section ‘Forgotten Cricket Moments’. As per the name, FCM will feature interesting cricket moments that are forgotten over the years.)
By: Keyur Seta
Sharjah hosted the most number of One-Day Cricket series in the 80s and 90s. The venue has seen some exciting moments. Two most memorable ones include Javed Miandad’s 6 off the last ball of Chetan Sharma in the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup Final and Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday special innings in 1998 against Australia in the Coca-Cola Cup final.
Like many other triangular series at this venue, there was one between Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Zimbabwe in 1997 called Singer-Akai Cup. This post features a round robin league match from the series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe. It was a match where Zimbabwe scared the daylights out of Pakistan in a manner no one could have imagined; not even Zimbabwean players.
With the likes of Wasim Akram, Inzamam-Ul-Haq, Saleem Malik, Ijaz Ahmed, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed in their team, the match pretty much looked like a ‘no contest’. But it wasn’t to be. That’s the beauty of the game and this venue. By the way, there were no floodlights in Sharjah then and all day matches were played in white clothes.
Pakistan won the toss, chose to bat and immediately started losing wickets. After losing 2 wickets at the score of 34, the veteran Saleem Malik was sent packing for a duck! Then Inzi succumbed to a run-out, one of his favorite methods of returning back to the pavilion. But even at this stage, it didn’t look so bad for Pakistan. A lot of times teams had managed to fight back against Zimbabwe after a poor start. Plus, Pakistan had a long batting line-up.
Unfortunately for them, this didn’t turn out to be a routine bad start against Zimbabwe. Wickets kept tumbling and the scoreboard soon read 51 for 7!!! Nobody was able to believe their eyes. I remember even the commentators, who weren’t expecting much from the match, were at a loss of words. Since it was an unimportant match, very few people, including my cricket-crazy friends, had tuned in. They missed a lot.
So, what was in store for Pakistan after being 51 for 7 and that too inside 20 overs? Batting out the 50 overs looked impossible from now on. But they managed to do something that looked like more than impossible at this stage. What if I told you they not only batted the full 50 overs but also managed to win the match in such a situation? Yes, that’s what eventually happened.
It all happened due to the wicket-keeper batsman Moin Khan. As they say, Cometh the hour, cometh the man. As per his fond habit, he bailed out his team from the deepest hole possible. He batted sensibly and fortunately found some great support from Saqlain at the other hand. Moin scored a heroic 61 off 97 balls with just one four and one six. It was sheer hard work. Saqlain, on the other hand, faced 81 balls for his 20. This is very slow even by the test cricket standards today but this is what was required given the situation.
Pakistan went on to score 151 for 9; a score that looked like almost a miracle after being 51 for 7. But one still expected the Zimbabwean team of that era to chase down the score. Sadly, they never looked like doing so. Pakistan’s deadly bowling attack was too much for them. They kept losing wickets in such a way that only four batsmen managed to reach double score. They were eventually bowled out for just 119 in 40.1 overs.
In this way, an inconsequential match turned out to be super interesting. Pakistan was expected to win but I am sure nobody would have predicted such turn of events.
See the full scorecard of the match HERE.