As the world gears up for the ICC World T20 2012, Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits an India-Pakistan encounter from the inaugural edition of the tournament. It was a game where India beat Pakistan in a new format with a unique scoreline – 3-0 in the bowl-outs.
On September 14, 2007, arch rivals India and Pakistan battled in a format that was gradually making its mark on world cricket. The inaugural ICC World T20 2007 was played in South Africa amidst tremendous fervour and interest and the contest between the two subcontinental neighbours was billed as the high octane encounter in the initial stages of the competition. It was a game that lived up to its billing and even introduced an element usually seen in the football world. The game had everything to be a blockbuster to match some of the previous memorable encounters between the two sides.
India were coming into the tournament with a young side under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The Indian fans were still coming to terms with the absence of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly – men who symbolised hope on the cricket field for more than a decade. Dhoni’s young Turks weren’t expected to do very well and qualification through to the next round was something everyone was looking at – mainly because of the first round exit at the 50-over World Cup earlier that year. The game against Pakistan was this side’s first taste of the action as their opening game against Scotland had washed off.
In rainy conditions at Durban, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik chose to field first and his decision was immediately vindicated by Mohammad Asif. The crafty medium-pacer rattled the Indian top order, scalping the wickets of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Karthik. In the seventh over, India found themselves at a very precarious position at 36 for four. The new captain Dhoni joined the youngster Robin Uthappa in the middle.
The partnership gave a small glimpse of the belligerence and fearlessness Dhoni’s young brigade was to exhibit in the days to come. While Uthappa took on the bowling, Dhoni maintained his cool and started guiding the innings. Uthappa used various tricks like walking across the crease etc. However, soon after his fifty, he tickled one to the ‘keeper.
India lost wickets at regular intervals from thereon, but Dhoni continued to hold the innings – playing a few attacking shots along the way. With Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar chipping in with a few runs, India stretched their challenge to 141 in 20 overs – a fantastic recovery considering their struggle upfront.
The wicket still had something in it for the fast-bowlers and India would have fancied their chances despite a relatively low score. Pakistan made steady progress and found themselves at 42 for one at the end of the seventh. The slide started there as they lost Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan in quick succession. At the half-way mark, Pakistan were 53 for four with Misbah-ul-Haq and Malik in the middle.
The asking rate kept soaring even as the duo tried to resurrect Pakistan’s charge. Malik lost his patience and holed out only to bring the dangerous Shahid Afridi in the middle. In the last three overs, Pakistan needed 42 and all eyes were on Afridi – the man who had the goods to make it happen with crazy hitting. Harbhajan Singh got the better of him and India heaved a huge sigh of relief with the danger man back in the hut. Little did they know that a certain Misbah, at the other end, was to smash those beliefs.
Misbah played like a man possessed after Afridi’s dismissal and was well-supported by Yasir Arafat who threw his bat around. Together, they reduced the equation to only 12 to get off the last over. The fearless Dhoni handed the ball to the unpredictable Shatakumaran Sreesanth. Misbah continued his belligerent streak and smashed two boundaries – the last of which came off the fourth ball and it looked like it was Game, Set and Match –Pakistan.
With one to get off two deliveries, a Pakistan win looked certain, but the remarkably calm Sreesanth had other ideas. Misbah played and missed the fifth delivery – which only added to the mystery. Dhoni marshalled all his troops into the circle. As Sreesanth ran in for the last ball, a tense Misbah moved away from the crease to take his helmet off and calm his nerves. On the retake, he mistimed it to cover and was run-out by miles at the bowling end. The Indians celebrated the tie as if they had won. Pakistan were left to ponder what might have been.
As were the rules for T20 then, ties were decided on bowl-outs – whereby each team would bowl at the stumps five times and the one hitting the most would win – a la penalty shootout. It should be noted, that the bowlers would not be bowling to a batsman; the objective being to merely hit the stumps. Interestingly, Pakistan were unaware of the rules and were under the impression that the matter was settled. Both sides nominated their five – India going for a mix of specialists and part-timers while Pakistan banked on their frontline bowlers to do the job.
Surprisingly, Virender Sehwag walked in to bowl the first ball of the shoot-out with no batsmen at the other end. Sehwag hits the stumps. India 1-0.
Arafat came on next to bowl Pakistan’s first ball in the shoot-out. Bowling with a shortened run-up and minimal energy, he missed the off-stump. Pakistan 0-1.
Harbhajan bowls next and hits the stumps. India 2-1.
The pressure is immense on Umar Gul as he next comes on to bowl for Pakistan. And like Arafat, he too misses the stump. Pakistan 0-2.
Then came a shocker of a moment. Instead of the main bowlers, Robin Uthappa walked up to bowl! Uthappa merely rolled his arm over and hit the woodwork – India 3-0. He then burst into a spontaneous jig – where he took his cap off repeatedly and bowed to the crowd.
The body language of the Pakistanis showed a beaten look already. It was now up to Pakistan’s talisman – Shahid Afridi - to keep his team alive. He ran in and bowled it wide down the leg side. Pakistan 0-3. India emerge victors! The Indian team went berserk and celebrated the victory over the arch-rivals. The World T20 certainly won more viewers in the cricket crazy subcontinent.
Both teams met each other in the final of the competition – which was equally dramatic, if not more. India won the match by five runs and it was Misbah again who was left to ponder on his fate. In fact, his unwanted streak against India in crunch games continued into the 2011 World Cup where he saw his side slip to a defeat with him in the middle.
India’s victory opened up a new market for T20 cricket. One can say that the Indian Premier League (IPL) owes a major part of its success to that victory – one that caught the imagination of the millions of cricket fans in India. In hindsight, that game against Pakistan may have been the first step India took towards the T20 hysteria.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)