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Bright sunshine delays play between Pakistan and New Zealand at Gujranwala

Saleem Malik top-scored with 73 © Getty Images (File Photo)
Saleem Malik top-scored with 73 © Getty Images (File Photo)

In December 1996, the One-Day International (ODI) played between Pakistan and New Zealand at Gujranwala was bizarrely reduced to 46 overs-a-side due to bright sunshine impeding the view of the batsmen. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at the pulsating encounter that Pakistan won by a mere 11 runs.

 

To watch a wonderful game of cricket, cricket fans make a beeline entry into stadium. Inside jam-packed stadiums, cricket obsessed fans dance, make merry and with their own versions of vuvuzelas to create a party-like atmosphere. However, one factor that cricket lovers always dread when they make plans to watch a game of cricket is rain.

 

Over the years, rain has many times turned out to be cricket’s worst enemy. Just when a game of cricket is poised to end in a humdinger of a contest, the electrifying on-field climax of the game would be ruined by rain. There have been many occasions when an entire match has been abandoned due to incessant rain. However, has anyone heard a game of cricket being stopped by bright radiant sunshine?

 

Bizarrely it has happened a few times when a game of cricket has been stopped by bright sunshine too. In County cricket, Derbyshire faced endless problems with a slew of games being stopped due to sunshine. The writer reminisces about how he rubbed his eyes in sheer disbelief several times when he saw the Derbyshire vs Nottighamshire, Friends Provident game played in June 2006 being stopped due to the low sun getting into the eyes of batsmen. The Derbyshire cricket authorities finally had to turn the square 90 degrees to end the menace of games being stopped due to bright sunshine.

 

Intriguingly, this bizarre occurrence happened once in an international game too. If we jog back our memory, in 1996 December, the first ODI played between hosts Pakistan and New Zealand at Gujranwala was reduced to 46 overs a side due to bright sunshine impeding the view of batsmen. The umpires for the match, Khizar Hayat and Javed Akhtar were forced to delay the start of the game.

 

 

Backdrop

 

Unfortunately, New Zealand always have had a history of landing in a country in times of crisis or midst of some terrorist attack. In 1986-87, they had called off a tour to Emerald Isles due to a bomb blast in Colombo. It happened in 1992 as well when a bomb exploded in the same street, where the New Zealand team was staying. In 2002 after a bomb exploded outside New Zealand’s Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi, the tour was cancelled.

 

In 1996, it was a case of political upheaval in Pakistan that threatened the cancellation of the tour. Only after PCB‘s then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Majid Khan gave complete assurance to his opposite number, Christopher Doig did the tour take place.

 

In the first Test of the series played at Lahore, New Zealand’s swing merchant Simon Doull must have felt like taking a magical flight to the outwardly high of the universe when he took a five-for. New Zealand went onto win the Test by 44 runs. In the second Test though, Mohammad Zahid took a 10-for on his debut Test to help Pakistan script a famous win and restore parity by drawing the series 1-1. The caravan then shifted to the One-Day leg of the tour.

 

 

First ODI at Gujranwala

 

The first of the ODIs was played at Gujranwala. From New Zealand’s perspective, Stephen Fleming was the cricketer to watch out for. In the Test series, the smooth stroking Fleming known for effortlessly caressing the ball by bisecting the fielders with a royal flourish was in glorious touch. For Pakistan, Wasim Akram came back into set-up and was captaining a side and they had a potent bowling unit at their disposal.

 

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first in the 46-over reduced game. At 5 for 71, Pakistan found themselves in tatters, but the experienced duo of Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram stitched an invaluable partnership of 91 runs to take them to a respectable total of 228. Nathan Astle with his dibbly-dobblers proved to be New Zealand’s chief weapon on a track that was on the slower side.

 

 

New Zealand crumble to Saqlain Mushtaq’s box of tricks

 

Chasing a target of 229, Bryan Young and Adam Parore known for iron-clad techniques rather than felicitous stroke-play; brick-by-brick took New Zealand past the 100-run mark. However, once the spin-trio of Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Shahid Afridi were introduced into the attack, New Zealand’s batsmen pressed the panic button. In particular, they found Saqlain’s new mystery delivery, the doosra too hot to handle.

 

Fleming with his unruffled elegance played silken smooth strokes to keep Saqlain at bay. But a sudden loss of concentration saw him getting stumped to New Zealand’s tormentor in that game — Saqlain. New Zealand’s charismatic all-rounder, Chris Cairns too bludgeoned a few sixes off-spinners straight down the ground, before falling to the searing pace of Younis. New Zealand’s key batsman, Astle who was in the midst of a long form slump though, flopped miserably and that didn’t help their cause one bit.

 

Chris Harris coming into bat well down the order finally provided some much-needed impetus to New Zealand’s innings with his own brand of pyrotechnics. But that was the day when Saqlain had touched rarefied zones and soon Harris too succumbed to his box of tricks. To make life more difficult for New Zealand, Waqar Younis with his deadly toe-crushing yorkers was giving nightmares to their tail-enders.

 

Pakistan eventually won the pulsating contest by 11 runs. However, even now the match is fondly rekindled for the bizarre decision taken by umpires Hayat and Akhtar to delay the match due to bright sunshine impeding the view of the batsmen.

 

 

Brief scores:

 

Pakistan 228 for 8 in 46 overs (Saleem Malik 73, Wasim Akram 52; Nathan Astle 2 for 31, Chris Harris 2 for 40) beat New Zealand 217 in 45.4 overs (Bryan Young 58, Stephen Fleming 36, Chris Cairns 36; Waqar Younis 2 for 48, Saqlain Mushtaq 5 for 44) by 11 runs.

 

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

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