Venkatesh Prasad’s three wickets came at a time when Pakistan was threatening to run away with the game © Getty Images
Venkatesh Prasad’s three wickets came at a time when Pakistan was threatening to run away with the game © Getty Images

 

By CricketCountry Staff

 

India vs Pakistan, Wills World Cup 2nd Quarter-final, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore

 

March 9, 1996

 

India won by 39 runs

 

The first-ever game to be played under floodlights at the Chinnaswamy Stadium had all the ingredients of a thriller. A robust batting show by India, powered by top-order discipline from Navjot Singh Sidhu and an eye-catching blitzkrieg at the death by Ajay Jadeja, was followed by a rollicking opening stand between Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail. The controversial pull out of Wasim Akram before the crucial match and the fact that it turned out to be Javed Miandad’s last international appearance all added to the flavor.

 

India’s score of 287 for eight appeared decent enough to test the best out of the Pakistanis who were docked one over for slow over-rate. Anwar and Sohail quickly got on top of the Indian opening bowlers and kept creaming the new ball to all parts of the ground. Sohail, in particular, was devastating in his approach, and hit the ball to all parts of the ground at will.

 

Such was the aggression of the Pakistan openers that the target of 288 seemed Lilliputian. “Pakistan started the chase by smashing the new ball to all corners of the ground. We thought we would lose with, maybe, 15 overs to spare. That’s how well they were playing,” said Venkatesh Prasad who took some punishment early on.

 

The Pakistan 50 was posted in the eight over. Skipper Mohammad Azharuddin introduced leg-spinner Anil Kumble early to stem the flow of runs, but it had little impact on the Pakistan openers who raised 84 in 10 overs before Anwar fell.

 

Sohail kept the scoreboard in fast-forward mode and soon reaching his half-century. He celebrated the moment tonking Venkatesh Prasad to the point boundary. What followed got every cricket fan’s adrenaline pumping as Sohail memorably walked up to the bowler and pointed his bat towards the point region as if to say ‘Go Fetch it’.

 

Prasad was no way going to take the taunt lying down in front of his home crowd. He exacted revenge off the next ball, cleaning up Sohail when he attempted a similar shot and played all over it. The bowler gave him a mouthful while sending off Sohail. “When Sohail hit the four and gestured, I just thought I want to get his wicket on the next ball. I was determined to do that and, luckily, that’s what happened,” was how Prasad remembers that moment.

 

Pakistan had the momentum with them to nicely pace their innings and chase down 288 without any real alarms given the springboard their openers provided. Prasad was a changed bowler after scalping Sohail. A healthy-looking 113 for one didn’t take long to turn into despair as Prasad dislodged Ijaz Ahmed.

 

Pakistan lost some of their momentum. It got worse when big man Inzamam-ul-Haq became Prasad’s third victim as Pakistan stuttered to 132 for four.

 

Prasad’s three wickets may not seem like a massive achievement, but in the context of the game it was a critical effort. His wickets came at a time when Pakistan was threatening to run away with the game.

 

It’s very easy for fans and followers of the game to remember Prasad’s run-in with Sohail given the fierce Indian-Pakistan rivalry. But you delve more, and know how valuable his three for 45 was in sealing India’s semi-final berth.

 

Pakistan closed out the game at 248 for nine in 49 overs, handing India a 39-run victory.