As Pakistan and India prepare to face off at Edgbaston, here are some memorable highlights from an incomparable rivalry.
Cricket’s most passionate rivalry began in 1952, just five years after Partition, with India hosting Pakistan’s first Test tour and winning an amicable series 2-1. Over the next few years, tetchy, stalemate-heavy tussles became the norm, before the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistani War in 1965 (and its reprise in 1971) put bilateral matches on hold.
The stand-off would last for 18 years. It wasn’t until 1978-79, with new heads of government in place, that the two countries would meet again. This time Pakistan were the hosts but the same old issues resurfaced: perceived bias from the home umpires eliminating any hopes of cordiality.
It led to the first instance of neutral umpires standing in a Test match, when John Holder and John Hampshire stood in four Tests in 1989-90. That series featured the first Test appearances of a 16-year-old called Sachin Tendulkar from Bombay, and a Punjabi tearaway called Waqar Younis. At Sialkot, in the pair’s second Test, Waqar chinned the prodigy with a quick bumper. The determined youngster never went down, hit his next ball for four, and saved the match en route to a maiden half-century. There would be more.
By the turn of the decade tensions had risen once again. On the pitch in the 1980s matches between the two sides had been dominated by the combo of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, while off it Pakistan’s 1985 tour would be cancelled midway through its run following the assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Ghandi. And when the Karachi ODI in 1990 was abandoned due to crowd trouble, it would signal the last match played between the two teams in either country for eight years. Neutral venues like Canada and Sharjah continued to host matches in front of sizeable expatriate communities, but ‘home’ games for either side were off the table.
1998-99 IN INDIA
By 1999, it had been 13 years since Pakistan’s national team had set foot on Indian soil. Various attempts to set up tours had already been kiboshed by security problems but following Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s historic visit to Pakistan in early 1999, the two countries were allowed to face each other again. Breaking through the masses of security measures and nervy diplomacy, the first Test at Chennai threw up a classic. Chasing 271 to win after Shahid Afridi’s 141 as an opener, India came up short by just 12 runs, with Tendulkar’s 136 – played out against Wasim Akram, Waqar and Saqlain Mushtaq – not quite enough to see the hosts home.
The second and final Test at Delhi saw Anil Kumble make history, becoming the first Indian bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test innings. The games went off peacefully, with the score diplomatically locked at 1-1.
2003 WORLD CUP IN SOUTH AFRICA
When the two met on neutral territory at Centurion for a group match in the 2003 World Cup, Pakistan came out fighting, Saeed Anwar cutting and slashing his way to another hundred. They posted 273, and with Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar in the bowling ranks it looked to be enough. But then Tendulkar, with all of India on its knees in supplication, played the purest one-day innings of his life.
His contest with Shoaib was India and Pakistan in microcosm. When he was finally undone by a Shoaib snorter, fended off in front of his jaw after a flurry of boundaries including an upper-cut six to a ball pushing 95mph, Tendulkar departed for 98 from just 75 balls. This was one of those matches where the cricket towered over everything else. India would go on to win by six wickets.
2004-05 IN INDIA
Landing in Chandigarh a year later, deprived of Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s Pakistan were given little chance, but the tourists escaped with a draw in the first Test, thanks to Kamran Akmal’s brilliant match-saving century. When a pair of Rahul Dravid hundreds and Kumble’s class took India to victory in the second, the home side paraded their superiority all the way to Bangalore for the third and final match, where on the first morning Pakistan were reduced to 7/2 before Inzamam and Younis Khan came together to put on 324, Younis helping himself to 267.
India replied with a mammoth score of their own, Virender Sehwag smashing 201. With time ebbing away, up stepped Shahid Afridi. Smashing a 34-ball 58 to set up a declaration, he then ripped out Sachin, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly in a single spell on the final afternoon as Pakistan raced to victory. The tourists then went and took the ODI series 3-2, overturning a two-nil deficit to win the final three matches of the tour, returning home to be met by thousands of screaming fans at the airport.
Fans from both countries wait for the next chapter to be written when two the two sides meet in the ICC Champions Trophy fixture at Edgbaston. If history is anything to go by, you won’t want to take your eyes off it.