The Men in Green dominated from start to finish as Moin Khan led a team packed with quality in every department to claim the biggest trophy in Asian cricket two decades ago.
The 50-over tournament took place in Bangladesh for the second time in it’s history and all matches were played at the Bangabandu National Stadium in the nation’s capital of Dhaka. There were seven matches contested in total over an eight day period and interestingly, Pakistan played the last four, including the final.
Containing a strong top order of Saeed Anwar, Imran Nazir and Mohammed Yousuf, an Inzamam ul-Haq in his prime, young all-rounders Shahid Afridi & Abdul Razzaq and new ball pair of the two Akrams of Wasim & Mohammed, this was as well balanced as a team that Pakistan has arguably ever had in a major tournament.
They laid down a marker of what was to come, as they crushed the host by 233 runs in their opening match. The much vaunted top order pummelled the bowling to all parts, but in varying ways. Anwar was going at a run a ball, Nazir was belligerent in making a 76 ball 80, which included seven 4’s and three 6’s, while Yousuf was the glue that held it all together as he mad 80 from 104 deliveries.
They racked up 236 after just 41 overs and it allowed the dashing duo of “Inzi” and Afridi to come in and free their arms to reach a total of 320. In their turn in the field, their skittled the Tigers for just 87 with the wickets shared around, with Razzaq finishing with phenomenal figures of 3-5 from four overs. They never let their opponents in the contest and carried it on…
The very next day they faced off with arch-rivals India and it was a comfortable victory.
Yet again it was Yousuf who held the innings together with his steady building of his batting. The Lahore born batsman came in one down with the score at 74 and stayed until the end to amass an unbeaten 100, which included nine 4’s and one huge 6. The other batsmen batted around the right-hander and a total of 295 was set.
Razzaq’s steady medium pace ripped through the Indian batting to leave them tottering on 75-4, as he removed Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and the veteran Mohammed Azharuddin. Ajay Jadeja led the fight back with a brilliant 93, with eight 4’s and four 6’s, but there was no other help forthcoming and he would be the last man out. He was stumped off the bowling of Nazir, on the fourth bowl of his first over, a quite inspired bowling change by captain Khan.
It was a victory by 44 runs for the team and confirmed their place in the final.
Their last group stage match was against the team they would face in the showpiece event in the form of Sri Lanka, in a dress rehearsal.
It was a low scoring encounter, but as in many cases, it turned out to be quite an exciting finish. The Lankans won the toss and decided to take a turn at the crease first. Wasim Akram was given a rest for this encounter, but did not matter as the bowling did not skip a beat. Azah Mahmood led the attack with 3-24, including the key scalps of Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Attapattu. The latter’s score of 62 was the only one over 50, as Sri Lanka could only muster 192.
At their turn at bat, it was Yousuf who again led the way with a composed 90 from 130 balls, including seven 4’s and a couple of 6’s. The Pakistan pursuit of the total was not a sprint at all, as they displayed a steadiness and a disciplined approach that is too often missing from the hugely talented cricketing nation.
They achieved the win with two overs to spare and considering what was to unfold in the final, it was a psychological point for Pakistan.
With Wasim returning to the starting 11, captain Khan won the toss and elected to bat first on a hot early June day in Dhaka. The first two balls bowled by Chaminda Vaas were wides and it set the tone for what would be a poor performance by the men in Blue in the field. In total, they dropped seven, yes, seven catches One of those was Anwar in the slips and the left-handed opener promptly pulled the nex ball for a six!
His innings was needed, as especially as Yousuf who carried much of the Pakistani batting and ended the tournament as the leading run scorer with 295 runs, made a rare failure of just 25. Anwar was out with 10 overs remaining for a superb 82, but there was more joy to come from his team’s batting. Captain Khan had up until that point not been required to make a significant contribution with the bat, but in combination with Inzi, he came to the party.
The pair added 104 in the last 61 balls of the innings, an amazing achievement for that time! It was all the more impressive given the fact that Inzi had to have Nazir run for him, after he started suffering from cramps. Khan took on the mantle and took Murali and co. to all parts of the stadium. He was charging down the pitch…He was constantly moving around the wicket…He ran between the stumps like a man who had just drank a bunch of energy drinks…There was no stopping him!
It was fitting that he would blast the last ball for a huge six over long on and his team ended on 277.
Sri Lanka’s penchant for shooting themselves in the foot carried over to their batting, as revolutionary opener pair Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana went for a third run that just was not on and an accurate throw by Anwar was neatly gathered by Khan who effected the run out and the keeper was back in the pavilion.
His opening partner would soon follow him, as well as star batsman Aravinda da Silva who made a painstaking 20. Sri Lanka needed their top batsmen to step up and they did not. However, finals can bring out the best in people and the reliable Atapattu and spirited Russell Arnold put on 80 for the fifth wicket to pull their team out of the depths of despair.
It was left to Atapattu to try to pull the rabbit out of the hat and maneuver the bowling with the help of the lower order. However, Wasim was recalled to the attack and the legendary left-hander rewarded his captain and team with the kep scalps. He first removed Atapattu right after the batsman had reached his century, caught behind by Khan who must have been relieved that his plan had worked.
There was still time for a quick fire 24 from Upul Chandana, but a fiery yorker from Wasim put payed to any hopes the defending champions had of raising the trophy again. The final nail in the coffin was when Murali slapped a Razzaq delivery straight into the gleeful hands of substitute Shoaib Malik and with Weeraratne unable to bat, Pakistan were champions!
They displayed a fantastic brand of free cricket, led by a tactically astute captain, with a team containing both youth and experience where everyone contributed and their triumphed was fully deserved.