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When Ijaz Ahmed decimated the Indian bowling

March 21, 2004 20:26 IST

As cricket fans prepare for the last two matches of the one-day series between India and Pakistan at Lahore's Gaddafi stadium, Indians will be hoping their team does not meet the fate it suffered in their last match at the venue.

On that eventful day (rather night, as the match was a day-nighter) on October 2, 1997, the Indian bowling attack was decimated by one of the hardest hitters of the ball in international cricket.

Much before the Gaddafi stadium was to be bathed in artificial light, darkness enveloped Indian hopes of a maiden series win in Pakistan.The match was over with Pakistan romping home with about 23 overs of their innings still to be bowled. It's very hard to recall any other match where the Indian bowling was massacred so brutally.

The three-match series, labelled the Wills Challenge Series, started soon after the Friendship Cup in Toronto, where India had defeated Pakistan quite comprehensively, by 4-1 margin. Though Pakistan won the opening match of three-match series handsomely, the Indians drew level with a remarkable victory in Karachi. So every thing was at stake in third and final match.

The Indians went into the match high on morale and confidence.  But what happened left them completely dumbfounded and crestfallen.

Things started on a bad note for India as skipper Sachin Tendulkar lost the toss to his counterpart, Saeed Anwar, who had no hesitation in asking India to bat first. The Indian team was in deep trouble from the beginning of the innings. Tendulkar fell after scoring only seven, when the total was 12. He shuffled across to an outswinger from Aaqib Javed off the fourth ball of the fourth over and was well caught by Inzamam in second slip.

The other opener, Sourav Ganguly, tormentor of the Pakistan team in the Sahara Friendship Cup in Toronto, also did not last long. He fell at the total of 53 after contributing 26 runs in 36 balls to give off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq his only wicket of the match, with Mohammad Hussain taking a brilliant, tumbling catch at boundary.

Soon after that Azhar Mahmood got into the act, taking the next three wickets. He first clean bowled Robin Singh. The batsman tried to pull an outswinger but edged the ball on to his stumps after making 17 off 22 balls.

Vinod Kambli (6) lasted 17 balls before edging an outswinger to wicketkeeper Moin Khan, who stepped towards his left to hold a good catch. The in-form Azharuddin (6) then edged an outswinger and Moin Khan lunged towards his right to hold another good catch.

At 77 for five, the Indian innings was in shambles. However Saeed Anwar let the Indians off the hook by persisting with his spinners and not increasing the pressure. Ajay Jadeja batted sensibly to pull the Indians out of hot waters and gave some respectability to the total. He added 53 runs for the sixth wicket with Saba Karim.

After Karim was clean bowled by Mohammad Hussain, Jadeja and Rajesh Chauhan added another 76 for the seventh wicket. Both departed in successive deliveries though. Jadeja jumped out of his crease for a big hit off the first ball of Waqar Younis's second spell and skied the ball. Inzamam jumped high to hold a spectacular right-handed catch at the long-on boundary.

Jadeja scored 76 runs off 109 balls, which included six hits to the fence. His was a brave knock in trying circumstances. Off Waqar's next ball, Chauhan tried a big hit, but Mohammad Hussain, near the boundary-line, held another brilliant, diving catch.

The Indian innings folded at 216 in 49.2 overs. The total did not look very imposing. Nonetheless, Pakistan had to achieve it. And they did so ruthlessly.

The jam-packed crowd of over 30,000 was thrilled to watch Ijaz Ahmed coming out to open the innings with Shahid Afridi in place of regular opener Saeed Anwar.

Afridi started the proceedings as he usually does, hitting the ball mercilessly from the word go. He selected Debashish Mohanty for some special treatment, hitting him for two successive sixes. The first one was over cover boundary and the second over mid-wicket boundary. Afridi then hit Kuruvilla over the cover boundary for his third six. Besides, Afridi also hit five boundaries to electrify the crowd. The pair put on 80 runs in just eight overs when Afridi tried another big hit off Nilesh Kulkarni and Tendulkar ran quite a few yards before holding on to a diving catch.

Afridi departed after making 47 in 23 balls. The Indians were jubilant to see the back of Afridi but had no idea of the pounding they were going to receive from Ijaz.

It was all Ijaz's show from there on. He was cautious in the initial stages but soon took complete command over the game as he played one of the most memorable and unforgettable innings in one-day cricket.

In a massacre of the Indian bowling rarely seen before, Ijaz raced to his 100 in only 68 balls, with seven fours and half a dozen sixes. His first 50 came off 36 balls, which included as many as four boundaries and three sixes.

Ijaz drubbed all the bowlers at will and spared none. He hit two sixes each off Ganguly and Kulkarni besides hitting a six each against all the other Indian bowlers. Such was his confidence that he completed his century with a six off Ganguly over the bowler's head. He brought Pakistan's win in scintillating style with another six over the long-on boundary as spectators burst into a deafening noise.

His unbeaten 139 took him only 84 balls which included nine sixes and 10 fours. His nine sixes are still the maximum by any batsman in the second innings of a One-Day International.

Indeed, it was Ijaz at his brilliant best! Pakistan achieved the target in only 26.2 overs at a run-rate of 8.31!

There were as many as 18 fours and 12 sixes in Pakistan's innings -  a boundary percentage of 65.75!

Rajneesh Gupta