Sourav Ganguly got four consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards against Pakistan in the Sahara Cup in 1997 © AFP
On September 18, 1997, Sourav Ganguly hogged the limelight not for his delightful shots through the off-side, neither for scoring big but for his bowling heroics at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. He single-handedly won the match for India with his medium pace coupled with a little movement off the deck to which the Pakistan batsmen had no answers. Sarang Bhalerao looks back at the day when Ganguly rattled the arch rivals with his decisive bowling spell.
The Sahara Cup — a friendship series played between arch rivals India and Pakistan for three years has had its high points. The second edition belonged to Sourav Ganguly whose all-round performances stood out and helped India win the series 4-1. Come the third match of the series and India were inserted in the conditions where bowlers were the bosses. Batting was difficult since the movement and carry was impressive for the Pakistan bowlers.
Pakistan bowlers Aaqib Javed and Azhar Mahmood were troubling the Indian openers, Ganguly and Saba Karim. Run-making was not easy. Ganguly succumbed to the pressure and was dismissed on the 20th ball of his innings for two caught by Ijaz Ahmed off Mahmood. Karim followed the suit in the next over caught behind by Moin Khan off Aaqib. Sachin Tendulkar was out for a 10-ball duck, caught behind off Mohammad Akram. At 23 for three, India were in doldrums. Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin began the rescue act and helped India to stabilize.
The 66-run alliance between Dravid and Azharuddin was broken when Saleem Malik effected a breakthrough. Dravid scored a laborious 79-ball 25 that had no boundaries. Azharuddin top-scored with 67 and some late-order hitting by Robin Singh — 29-ball 32 — helped India reach 182 for six in their allotted 50 overs.
Pakistan began their run-chase aggressively with openers Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi looking to press on the accelerator right from the outset. The Indian bowling looked clueless in the early overs when they were taken to the cleaners.
Anwar (22) was dismissed trying to flick Debasis Mohanty off the pads only to be caught by Dravid stationed at mid-wicket. Abey Kuruvilla picked up dangerous Afridi for 44 caught by captain Tendulkar. When Ramiz Raja was dismissed for an eight-ball 11, Pakistan were 87 for three still needing 96 runs with plenty of overs in hand.
Sourav Ganguly bowls India to a win
In the 19th over, Ganguly bowled a full delivery to Malik (6), which the latter flicked meekly to Tendulkar at mid-on. Tendulkar had employed an attacking field — with men inside the circle, cutting the singles and inviting the batsmen to go for their shots. Pakistan were well-placed for a win for Tendulkar’s invitation was too tempting for Malik, who was caught in two minds playing the shot, thus resulting in a half-hearted shot which vindicated Tendulkar’s aggressive approach.
Hasan Raza, the 15-year-old, was kept scoreless for seven deliveries. Off the eighth ball he tried to break the shackles going for an expansive shot. The ball was skied and it was held safely by Ajay Jadeja at backward point. Pakistan were committing a hara-kiri, digging a proverbial hole for themselves by playing needless shots.
Ijaz Ahmed (13) top-edged Ganguly’s short delivery to fine-leg, where (substitute) Vinod Kambli took a tumbling catch. What followed were typical Kambli theatrics — tossing the ball in the air and acting as if he is firing the ball. At the blink of an eye, Pakistan were in a lot of strife. At 116 for six, they needed a sense of normalcy. There were a lot of overs to bat and there was no pressure of the run-rate.
Moin Khan (7) played a half-hearted cover drive and failed to transfer his weight onto the shot. That resulted in an easy catch to Robin Singh at cover. Ganguly got his fifth wicket when Aaqib (11) tried to use the long handle against the Prince of Kolkata only to be caught at mid-off. Irresponsible batting resulted in Pakistan’s collapse.
Ganguly finished his spell: 10-3-16-5 that converted a near-certain defeat to an unexpected win in a matter of minutes. India soon claimed the final wicket of Saqlain Mushtaq (11) and were victors by 34 runs.
Ganguly went on to claim 15 wickets in the series and scored 222 runs with the bat. He won four consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards — a world record.
It is apt to say Ganguly provided a lot of Sahara to India enroute to a 4-1 thrashing over the arch rivals.
India 182 for 6 in 50 overs (Mohammad Azharuddin 67, Robin Singh 32*; Mohammad Akram 2 for 28) beat Pakistan 148 in 36.5 overs (Shahid Afridi 44; Sourav Ganguly 5 for 16) by 34 runs.
Man of the Match: Sourav Ganguly
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)