Aamer Sohail

Aamer Sohail scored 85 and finished with career-best figures of four of 22 © Getty Images

On October 12, 1995, Pakistan’s opening batsman Aamer Sohail scored an important half-century and rolled his arm over to account for batsmen in a match against Sri Lanka in the Singer Champions Trophy. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at Sohail’s phenomenal all-round performance that helped Pakistan win the game by 83 runs.

It was a typical slow wicket at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium. The fast bowlers had to toil and the spinners could use the pitch to their advantage to get some extra turn and bounce.

In the second match of the Singer Champions Trophy between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, skipper Rameez Raja won the toss and elected to bat first. His openers Aamer Sohail and Saleem Elahi got them off to a solid start with a 107-run stand, before Muttiah Muralitharan foxed Elahi and got him caught by Pramodya Wickremasinghe.

With the wicket showing good signs for spin bowling, Arjuna Ranatunga brought on right-arm off-break bowler Aravinda de Silva. The move worked as de Silva got rid of Raja. Soon, Muralitharan picked up his second to send Sohail back, who was foxed by the turn and an edge carried safely to stumper Romesh Kaluwitharana. Sohail’s patient knock of 85 from 110 deliveries — laced with just four boundaries — thus came to an end.

Inzamam-ul-Haq’s onslaught helped Pakistan regain momentum, which seemed to be slipping away as the Sri Lankans picked up a few wickets. His 59-ball knock of 69 had a boundary and three sixes in it. Unfortunately for him, he was running short of batting partners. When Pakistan’s innings ended at 264 for seven, spinners Kumar Dharmasena, Muralitharan, de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya had accounted for six of those wickets. These four bowled 33 overs between them, giving away 168 runs and picking up six wickets.
Aamer Sohail’s four-for

In reply, Sri Lanka’s start was a bit shaky. Fast bowler Aaqib Javed got his side the first breakthrough by trapping Chandika Hathurusingha in front of the stumps. Given how big a role spin played in the first innings, Raja introduced Saqlain Mushtaq early into the attack. That move paid off as Mushtaq got rid of Jayasuriya, who was starting to look dangerous. Mushtaq then put Sri Lanka in a precarious situation he took a good, sharp catch off his own bowling to dismiss the dangerous de Silva for just three runs. At 51 for three, Sri Lanka had a mountain to climb.

Raja was clearly looking to unsettle the Sri Lankan batsmen and introduced part-time left-arm spinner Sohail. It seemed like a day when none of Raja’s moves could have backfired. Sohail became an unlikely hero for his side with the ball that day. Just when Asanka Gurusinha and Ranatunga were starting to rebuild the Sri Lankan innings, a delivery from Sohail went through Gurusinha’s defence to give Sri Lanka their fourth wicket. Sohail then broke another partnership that had the potential to win the game for Sri Lanka. Ranatunga and Hashan Tillakaratne added 15 runs before Ranatunga perished. In a bid to up the scoring rate, he went after Sohail but failed to clear the in-field and was caught comfortably by Raja.

A teasing delivery outside the off-stump from Sohail then broke the next wicket stand between Tillakaratne and Kaluwitharana. Sohail pitched the ball up and Tillakaratne chased after it and the edge carried comfortably to Moin Khan behind the stumps. The chase was all but over when Sohail picked up his fourth wicket to reduce Sri Lanka to 114 for seven. Sohail’s fourth victim was Kaluwitharana who was clean bowled by the left-arm spinner.

Sohail, thus, managed to repay Raja’s faith by breaking Sri Lanka’s middle-order and deflating their attempt to chase down the challenging total.

What followed

There wasn’t much fight left in the Sri Lankan batting after the fall of Kaluwitharana. The fall of regular wickets had an adverse effect on their scoring rate and by the time Ruwan Kalpage and Dharmasena were at the wicket, the asking rate had climbed too far. To make matters worse, Saeed Anwar came on and picked up a wicket.  Sri Lanka limped to 182 for eight in their share of 50 overs, losing the game by 82 runs.
Brief scores:

Pakistan 264 for 7 in 50 overs (Aamer Sohail 85, Saleem Elahi 50, Inzamam-ul-Haq 69; Kumar Dharmasena 2 for 43, Muttiah Muralitharan 2 for 51) beat Sri Lanka 182 for 8 in 50 overs (Sanath Jayasuriya 24, Kumar Dharmasena 30; Aamer Sohail 4 for 22) by 82 runs.

Man of the Match: Aamer Sohail

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)