On September 29, 1995, Pakistan’s 19-year-old Saleem Elahi became the fourth cricketer to score a century on One-Day International (ODI) debut. The century came at Gujranwala against Pakistan and was enough to help take his team to a nine-wicket win. Prakash Govindasreenivasan has more.
To hand Saleem Elahi his ODI debut in the first of the three-match series against Sri Lanka in Gujranwala was an intriguing move. The Pakistan line-up had three debutants, but Elahi was the only one who was making his debut even before playing a single ball of First-Class cricket. It was a big gamble that paid off rather handsomely.
Pakistan skipper Rameez Raja won the toss and put the opposition in. Sri Lanka did not have the best start as they stuttered their way to 48 for three. Ata-ur-Rahman was in the middle of all the action as he dismissed two of the power hitters in Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva to put pressure. The skipper from the visiting camp hit back. Arjuna Ranatunga led Sri Lanka’s fight back and resurrected their innings in the company of Asanka Gurusinha. The duo added 137 runs for the fourth wicket before Gurusinha became the first ODI victim of debutant Mohammad Akram. By this stage, Sri Lanka had recovered to an extent and set a target of 234 for the hosts.
The inexperienced Elahi walked out onto the wicket for the first time with all his batting gears on at such a level. Alongside, he had Aamer Sohail, a prolific batsman who had already played five years of ODI cricket and was a decade older.
Yet, the moment Elahi took guard and was getting ready to face the ball, all these conditions and stats went straight out of the window. Elahi put on the veil of a seasoned campaigner and dictated terms on the field as Sri Lanka struggled to defend their low total. He and Sohail added a massive 156-run stand for the first wicket, taking their side close to the target.
With the asking rate of under five runs an over, Elahi had the license to get his eye in and make full use of the opportunity. To most onlookers’ surprise, he did just that. After the departure of Sohail, Raja walked out to give company to the youngster as he was looking set to join the likes of Denis Amiss, Desmond Haynes and Andy Flower by scoring a ton on their ODI debut. When he eventually did it, he was the youngest to achieve this unique feat and did it in some style as he launched a poor delivery from Pramodya Wickramasinghe into the stands for a six.
Raja continued from where Sohail left off. He and Elahi batted on to go past the Sri Lankan total with nine wickets in hand and six overs to spare. It helped Pakistan draw first blood in a series which they eventually went on to concede 2-1. Irrespective of the results, Pakistan had unearthed a distinct talent to add to their top-order.
Sri Lanka 233 for 5 in 50 overs (Arjuna Ranatunga 102, Asanka Gurusinha 57; Ata-ur-Rehman 2 for 46) lost to Pakistan 234 for 1 (Saleem Elahi 102*, Aamer Sohail 77) by 9 wickets.
Man of the Match: Saleem Elahi