Robin Uthappa bows with a flourish, taking off his cap, after hitting the stumps during the bowl-out © Getty Images
Robin Uthappa bows with a flourish, taking off his cap, after hitting the stumps during the bowl-out © Getty Images

It had taken five World Cups for India and Pakistan to clash in the World Cup in the longer version of the sport. In World T20, however, the teams were pooled together, along with Scotland, in Group D of the first stage of the tournament, on September 14, 2007. The match shifted balance throughout its course, swinging precariously from one side to other till the match ended in a tie after 40 overs, making sure it did went on well past scheduled time. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a Kingsmead humdinger that had an ending that was more fitting in a football or hockey contest than in cricket.

Intentionally or otherwise, India and Pakistan were placed in separate groups for the first four World Cups. They came close in 1987, when a slower chase from India against New Zealand might have seen them clash in the semi-final. Both sides did make it to the last four, and both were beaten, and a different pair of arch rivals clashed in the final.

The 1992 World Cup was played in Round Robin format, which meant the sides were forced to clash. Surprisingly, they kept on meeting after that, in 1996, 1999, and 2003, and when Pakistan were knocked out in 2007, India obliged by following suit.

The 20-over format saw India and Pakistan grouped together with Scotland in the first round. Scotland were never in the match after Pakistan blasted their way to 171 for 9 and reduced them to 60 for 6.

The India-Scotland match, on the other hand, was washed out without a ball bowled. Since they had already flipped the coin, four Indians — Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, RP Singh, and Robin Uthappa — made T20I debuts.

When the sides met at Kingsmead, it was the first Twenty20 International match between the two teams.

Pakistan draw first blood 

Shoaib Malik put India in. The first ball from Mohammad Asif was left alone. The second pitched on a length, sucked Gautam Gambhir out, and left him at the last moment, teasing the edge. It was almost a miracle that there was no edge.

A desperate Gambhir hit the next ball back. To be fair it was not a bad stroke, but Asif changed direction and stretched his right hand out. The ball hit his palm, popped up, and Asif caught it on second attempts.

Virender Sehwag lofted Umar Gul off back foot over square-leg the next over. After two overs the score read 9 for 1.

The first ball of Asif’s second over pitched just outside off. Sehwag tried to punch it through cover, the ball took the inside edge, and hit timber.

Robin Uthappa pulled Asif and lofted Gul over long-on for fours. 19 for 2, after 4 overs. Once again Asif steamed in.

This one pitched on a length and moved away; Yuvraj Singh tried to push it past mid-on. The result was a lob to Malik at mid-off.

There was some retaliation from Dinesh Karthik that over. He hit two fours. Asif, however, had his vengeance when he bowled his fourth over on the trot: the ball jagged back as it took off a length and brushed Karthik’s elbow on its way to the stumps.

India were 36 for 4 after 7 overs. Asif’s figures read 4-0-18-4.

India claw back

The pressure was expected to release somewhat after Asif was through with his fiery spell, but there was little respite. Sohail Tanvir, with his awkward wrong-footed action, made life difficult for MS Dhoni.

Then came the 10th over: Uthappa walked down the crease towards Yasir Arafat as he ran in. Arafat’s length went awry, and Uthappa lofted him into the stands over long-off. Two balls later he dismissed Arafat into the mid-wicket stands.

Uthappa continued with his carnage, taking two fours off Shahid Afridi. By the time he edged one off Tanvir (and Kamran Akmal did not drop the chance) he had raced to a 39-ball 50.

Irfan Pathan went after Afridi for consecutive sixes before being bowled by the quicker one that typically beats batsman and wicketkeeper. It would have undone Kamran that day as well, but it hit leg-stump.

Dhoni continued with the carnage, taking ten off the next two. There was a harmless drizzle, after which the match continued; Ajit Agarkar cut Gul for consecutive fours; and despite an excellent last over from Arafat (3 runs and the wicket of Dhoni), India finished on 141 for 9.

It was an impressive total in 2007.

Brief surge for Pakistan

There was another brief burst of rain before RP and S Sreesanth started proceedings against Salman Butt and Imran Nazir. RP broke through in the third over, hitting timber as Nazir went for the slog, but Kamran walked out and counterattacked, pulling RP for four and six in the same over.

Butt responded well, taking two fours off Sreesanth. They ran hard, the Pakistanis. RP bowled out, conceding a mere 23 from his 4 overs. Pakistan needed 100 from 78 balls with 9 wickets in hand. Even by 2007 standards this was an achievable target

India turn tables

The match, of course, was far from over, for this was an India-Pakistan clash. Dhoni summoned Agarkar. The result was immediate: trying to steer one, Butt was undone by steep bounce off a length; he ended up playing the ball into Dhoni’s gloves.

Irfan came on at the other end. Younis Khan played one to point; Kamran ran frantically, Younis sent him back; when Yuvraj’s throw hit the stumps at non-striker’s end, the cameraman was found struggling to fit Kamran inside the frame.

Four balls later Irfan got one to lift; the ball hit Younis on the glove — and then the stumps.

Pakistan had lost 3 for 5 in 10 balls. They needed 95 from 67 balls, but had 6 wickets in hand with two new batsmen. The tables had turned.

Resurgence for Pakistan

Misbah-ul-Haq’s selection had raised many an eyebrow. Known more for his temperament, he was not the ideal person to walk out when the asking rate was close to 9. Nevertheless, he settled down, allowing Malik to play his shots.

The seamers had done a spectacular job, but Dhoni had to get his spinner to bowl those four overs. His part-timers, Sehwag and Yuvraj, were both spinners; Dhoni opted for Harbhajan Singh.

Four overs passed by. Malik hit two fours; Misbah, another two. The asking rate kept climbing, but Pakistan seemed ready for another onslaught.

Dhoni continued with Irfan. Malik cleared mid-wicket. It fell just short of the ropes. In the end, that made all the difference.

55 from 31. Irfan went back to the mark. He had a single delivery left in the match.

India make further inroads

Malik decided to go after the next ball. It was supposed to go over mid-wicket. The leading edge went to Harbhajan at cover.

Harbhajan responded to the situation, conceding a mere 6.

But Afridi was still there. Dhoni recalled Agarkar. Afridi went after him. Agarkar had been getting lift off the pitch; Afridi had set himself up for the pull; the top-edge soared towards mid-on.

And Harbhajan grassed it.

The next ball was smashed back over Agarkar’s head, Afridi-style, for four.

The over went for 7. 42 from 18.

Afridi, the only man who could pull off a win for Pakistan at this stage, made a last lunge for it. Unfortunately, Harbhajan bowled a straight, fast one, aiming for the ankle.

Afridi went for one of his booming strokes, and the ball flew to Karthik at mid-off. This time there was no mistake.

They needed 39 from 14 balls. This was certainly beyond Pakistan.

Pakistan roar back

Harbhajan, for some reason, decided to flight the next ball. And Misbah lofted it over the bowler’s head for six. And the next one over mid-wicket for four.

29 from 12.

Arafat was no Afridi, but he could bat, and there was hardly any option but to throw everything at the ball.

The first ball was short, and Arafat pulled successfully for four. The shot probably gave Misbah confidence, for he knew he did not need to retain strike.

They ran frantically for two off the next; Sehwag’s fumble did not help. Arafat gave the next ball his everything, and the ball sped through long-on for four.

19 from 9.

A single later, Misbah moved outside off and unleashed the scoop over fine-leg. It would cost Pakistan the trophy a few days later, but on this occasion he connected it well. The next ball ran past cover. Two.

12 from 6. This was gettable. One Agarkar over changed everything.

It had to be Sreesanth. There was no option. To be fair, Sreesanth had gone for 3-0-18-0. But then, Agarkar had 3-0-18-1 at one stage…

Arafat touched and ran desperately. By the time the ball reached Yuvraj at point they had already crossed over. 11 from 5.

Misbah went after the next ball, forcing it over cover. A helpless Dhoni watched the ball make its course to the ropes. 7 from 4.

The next ball was an on-drive. It should have been a single, but the tension — it was the last over of an India-Pakistan match in a world tournament — got to them. They ran two. 5 from 3.

Sreesanth attempted a yorker. All he could manage was a low full-toss, which was not too bad. But Misbah was up to the task: he met the ball on the full and hit it hard, extremely hard. There was a mid-off, but it was hit so hard that he had no chance.

Misbah’s fifty had taken a mere 33 balls, but more importantly, Pakistan needed 1 from 2 balls. They were winning!

Those last two balls

Dhoni took his time. The fielders converged. You could not stop a batsman set out to win a match and silence critics and batting like a dream, but there was certainly no harm in trying.

Sreesanth measured his run-up. Arafat was set to run at the drop of a hat. All he needed was Misbah to connect one.

The ball was short, and invited to be cut. Misbah, amidst all the excitement, went for the cut, and — somehow, somehow — missed it.

The Indian fielders regrouped. Fans remained glued to television set. Those stuck at work, or in a country without live telecast, kept hitting the F5 button frantically on the live score update tab. Misbah and Arafat discussed the obvious strategy. Gul, padded up and tense, could hardly control his emotions.

Had this been any other format Pakistan could not have lost, but T20 cricket was different, for even league matches had a tie-breaker. Pakistan could still lose: Misbah and Arafat had to squeeze in a run to stop that from happening.

Sreesanth ran in. Misbah backed out to take his helmet off and wipe sweat off his forehead.

Sreesanth bowled. It was shorter than it should have been. Misbah tried to pull, but the ball hurried on to him, and the ball rolled to Yuvraj at cover. Arafat had already taken off, but Misbah took some time to recover from the mistimed stroke.

Unfortunately, Misbah’s shot went to Yuvraj, probably the best fielder of the team.

Sreesanth, mercurial, erratic, often hot-headed Sreesanth, did what was expected of him: he made sure he was there to collect the ball and remove the bails before Misbah made it. It would not be the last time in the tournament that his composure would lead to a Misbah dismissal.

And thus began the bowl-out.

Indians celebrate after running out Misbah-ul-Haq © Getty Images
Indians celebrate after running out Misbah-ul-Haq © Getty Images

A brief note on bowl-outs

Contrary to popular beliefs, bowl-out is not a T20 concept. They were used in List A matches since the 1990s. The first such instance took place in a 1991 NatWest Trophy match. When play was not possible after two days of rain at Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire beat Derbyshire 2-1 in a bowl-out to go through.

Surprisingly, ODIs had never taken to tie-breakers, even in knockout stages of tournaments. In 2006 ICC eventually announced that only the knockout matches of Champions Trophy 2006 and World Cup 2007 would involve bowl-outs.

It was different in T20Is, where every match had to be decided, provided there had been a toss: this meant that even league matches or bilateral contests, unlike in ODIs, included bowl-outs to break ties.

Back in February 2006 at Eden Park, New Zealand had beaten West Indies 3-0 in the first ever T20I decided by a bowl-out. Each bowler was allowed two balls back then, which was later altered to one per head.

Football meets cricket

Uthappa later told CricketCountry in an interview: “We did practice bowl-outs; in fact, our net sessions started with bowl-outs. I started bowling, and told the team management ‘whether you like it or not, I’m gonna bowl.’ So it was more of me snatching the ball rather than a decision by the management!”

Indeed, fans on the ground and glued to screens of various sort were surprised when they saw Uthappa warming up. India nominated Sehwag, Harbhajan, Uthappa, Sreesanth, and Irfan; Pakistan went for their five specialist bowlers, Arafat, Gul, Afridi, Tanvir, and Asif.

The seriousness did not show on the faces of the Indians. Sehwag, cap on, waited to bowl with a smile on his face. Even the usually expressionless Dhoni grinned as he knelt down, a few yards behind the stumps. 1-0.

Arafat ran in with a shorter run-up than usual. Kamran waited behind the stumps, not on his haunches, but standing, hands on knees. Arafat missed the off-stump. 0-1.

India had the advantage, but had to capitalise on it. On came Harbhajan, over the wicket, bowling at an angle. The ball pitched on a length, and threatened to go over the stumps. Thankfully, it did not. 2-0.

Gul, too, ran in with a shorter run-up, and did an Arafat. 0-2.

On came Uthappa, to bowl goodness-knows-what, cap on. Forty years before the match, when England toured India, they suddenly found themselves without a second seamer. They were forced to play four spinners at Edgbaston.

When Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi asked reserve wicketkeeper Kunderan what he bowled, the response was honest: “I don’t know.” Kunderan opened bowling in that Test. One can only hope Dhoni knew what Uthappa bowled.

Uthappa bowled straight, on a length. Dhoni had to dive to his right to avoid his eye being hit by a bail. 3-0.

Pakistan decided to use his sole spinner, but Afridi sent one down the leg.

And the Indians celebrated, for not only had they won the first T20I against their arch rivals, but had also triumphed in the first (and last, by all expectations) bowl-out between the sides.

What followed?

– The sides met again in the final, where Misbah did an encore: he took Pakistan to the final, took a calculated risk in the end, and was last out, caught by — Sreesanth.

– India’s victory eventually gave birth to IPL in 2008, changing cricket’s global economy forever.

– In 2008 ICC decided to do away with bowl-outs. They introduced Super Overs instead.

Brief scores:

India 141 for 9 in 20 overs (Robin Uthappa 50; Mohammad Asif 4 for 18) tied with Pakistan 141 for 7 in 20 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 53).

Tie-breaker: India beat Pakistan 3-0.

Man of the Match: Mohammad Asif.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)