• 27 Jan - 02 Feb, 2024
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A warm welcome to you all to a new series, where I will be taking the readers down memory lane to some of the most memorable matches from the history books of cricket/football. These are the contests that became instant classics and have lingered long in the memories of sports enthusiasts.

Indo-pak Bilateral Series, Yes Please!
As the curtains fell on 2012, a tale of cricket unfolded, weaving its narrative through the labyrinth of a doomsday prediction and emerging unscathed. It marked the onset of a riveting saga between arch-rivals – a contest so monumental that it brought the entire Sub-continent to a standstill. Picture this: Indo-Pak in India, after a five-year hiatus, and the first encounter since the haunting echoes of the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The anticipation was palpable, and the stage was set for a clash of colossal proportions, where the fate of the whole Sub-continent seemed to hang in the balance.
India, having weathered the storm of ODI losses to England, managed to salvage a draw in the T20s. Their journey provided them with more than just match practice; it bestowed upon them the resilience needed to face their arch-rivals. The pressure mounted, but in the midst of it, stood the calm and collected MS Dhoni, a leader with two World Cup titles adorning his cricketing legacy.
On the other side of the playing field was Pakistan, stepping onto the international stage after the World T20. Their home soil had been untouched since the Lahore debacle in 2009, yet this lack of home ground advantage seemed to ignite a newfound motivation. Although success against India in world tournaments had eluded them, a glimmer of hope emerged in the form of a bilateral series, where Pakistan boasted an edge in head-to-head contests. The captain, Hafeez, fresh from a disappointing World T20 in Sri Lanka, was on a mission to redeem himself and uplift his nation.

Curtain Raiser
The stage was set, and as Ravi Shastri introduced the contest, a confident smile on Hafeez's face hinted at the storm that was about to unfold. The toss was tossed, but the revelation of the playing 11 remained Hafeez's secret. The opening ball delivered by Irfan was a shocker, bouncing away from the left-handed Gambhir at a blistering 88mph, a stark contrast to his previous outings. All the right ingredients suggested that we were in for a treat.

Big Guns Firing In All Cylinders
The match unfolded like a slow and steady crescendo, with Ajmal entering the scene and Rahane depositing him over Covers for a six. A dismissal brought Kohli to the crease, the crowd erupting for their heartthrob. However, in a moment where focus wavered, a power shot under-edged Kohli's bat, caught by Akmal off Irfan. Yuvraj faced Afridi, the first ball disappearing for a six. Umar Gul's spell got rid of Yuvraj, and Ajmal castled Dhoni, applying the brakes to India's scorers. Thanks to Pakistan's aesthetic ground fielding, India merely managed 133-9.
Half-time arrived, and an easy run chase seemed imminent, considering how Pakistan cordoned off the Indian innings. Momentum favoured the greens, and yet, as they say, "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going." Nasir Jamshed stepped up to open, facing the rookie Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The in-dipper left Jamshed clueless, and the bails went tumbling. Kumar's prowess shone again as he dislodged Umar Akmal's timber with a rare in-swinging delivery.

Ishant-kamran Altercation
At 12-3, Pakistan found themselves cornered. The skipper and the experienced Malik took the pitch. Dinda bowled to Hafeez, who connected perfectly, sending the ball racing to the fans. Malik settled in, and a flurry of runs followed from overs nine to 12, including massive sixes and cheers from the crowd. Hafeez's captain's knock of 61 ended, but Kamran Akmal's arrival intensified the drama.
Ishant Sharma faced Akmal, and a war of words ensued, reminiscent of the 1996 quarter-final feud between Sohail and Prasad. Sharma had the last laugh, catching Akmal at deep point. Pakistan needed 15 off a dozen balls, and the Indian bowlers were on a charge. However, Malik's half-century steered Pakistan towards victory. Afridi chipped in singles, bringing Malik on strike for a maximum with three balls to go. Jadeja pitched it perfectly but Malik's veteran skill sealed the thriller in the last over.

Orchestrator And His Patrolman
Hafeez injected confidence into his teammates, rescuing Pakistan from the clutches of defeat. Imran Khan's spirit seemed to guide them, and the stadium echoed with the jingle bells of Malik's clinical cover drive. The clash between Akmal and Sharma became a memorable face-off, a 'dabangg' moment etched in cricket history. Amidst it all, a silver lining for India - the discovery of a fast bowler who could have single-handedly dominated, had Hafeez and Malik not responded to the call.
And thus, Bangalore, with all its mementos, witnessed a cricketing tale that transcended the boundaries of sport, leaving an indelible mark in the hearts of fans.

About the writer
Shahzeb Ali Rizvi is a sports aficionado with a keen eye for the intricacies of cricket and football. He can be reached at [email protected]