With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin in May, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 16
In the 34 One-Day Internationals Bangladesh had played from 1986 till 31 May 1999, they had lost 32. The only two wins had come against Kenya in 1996 and Scotland a week earlier. In the six matches between Bangladesh and Pakistan preceding that 1999 World Cup encounter, the latter had won by margins of: seven wickets, 173 runs, six wickets, 109 runs, nine wickets, and 152 runs.
So, when the World Cup debutants took on a team containing the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Ijaz Ahmed to name a few greats, there was only result expected.
Except, it turned out to be one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
Dead rubber comes alive
Still a few months away from attaining Test status, Bangladesh were a team that was struggling to find their footing in international cricket coming into the 1999 World Cup as first-timers. There was no doubt about the passion for the game in the country and the players were known to be fighters but a win against a top nation had been eluding them for 13 years.
That day in Nottingham was another match at the 1999 World Cup where the attendance was near full – most matches during the tournament were, especially the ones featuring the subcontinent teams.
Pakistan had already qualified for the Super Six stages, having been unbeaten in the tournament till then. Bangladesh’s expected elimination was sealed too. There was not much to play for, for either side in terms of their future at the tournament. But for Bangladesh’s future as a cricketing nation, there was a lot at stake.
Batting first, Bangladesh posted a decent total of 223/9, riding mainly on a 68-run opening partnership between the tow Hossains – Mehrab and Shahriar. On a day of firsts, that was, in fact, the first fifty partnership for Bangladesh against Pakistan in ODIs.
After the openers were dismissed in the space of two overs by Saqlain (who went on take a five-for), a familiar batting collapse loomed. But Akram Khan and Aminul Islam added 50 more runs for the third wicket. From there on it was just a case of all batsmen getting starts and Bangladesh, like a sparrow building its nest, got to 223 with tiny contributions.
When it was Bangladesh’s turn to bowl, a sense of expectation set in. Khaled Mahmud, a medium pacer with an unique action that was not easy to forget for fans of the game in the 1990s, started with the brand new white ball and got it to swing. His military medium pace was causing Pakistan all sorts of problems as they were reduced to 42/5 in the 13th over. Inzamam-ul-Haq, too, played his part in that scoreline by adding one more to his collection of involvement in bizarre run-outs — this time Saeed Anwar was the victim.
At this point, the Bangladeshi fans were dancing in the aisles with their tiger stuffed toys, while some even came dressed up as tigers. The mood was one of jubilation and not even a fighting partnership between Azhar Mahmood and Wasim Akram could dampen their spirits.
For their part, Bangladesh bowlers and fielders kept their heads as Pakistan, not for the first time and not for the last time, collapsed spectacularly. There would be three run-outs in the match and the last one was when Saqlain was caught short, with the crowd rushing on to the field even before the third umpire’s decision could be made.
“Once we scored 223, we knew it would not be easy for Pakistan to chase down that target on that wicket,” man-of-the-match Khaled Mahumd said recently about that win. “We knew we had to get early wickets. That’s what we did. I got three wickets and once we took their first five wickets, we knew we would win”
“We were mobbed by the crowd inside the field after the last Pakistan wicket fell. I remember even Pakistan players met us in the team hotel later in the evening to congratulate us.”
Unfortunately the match has always been viewed with suspicion ever since, with suggestions that it was fixed to help Bangladesh attain Test status. The Hansie Cronje investigation saw the mention of this match as one of the two games that was allegedly manipulated during the World Cup though nothing has since been proved. Pakistan’s approach to the match certainly did not help quell the rumours, either.
“I’m happy we lost to our brothers. I think we should praise their win – they’ll be ready for Test status in another year or so,” Akram said infamously after the match, even if he might have meant no harm.
But try doubting this win to a nation that celebrated the win by flooding the streets and welcoming the players like they were national heroes. Once that red light came on at the end for Saqlain’s run-out, there was absolute joy in the Bangladesh dressing room with players jumping up and down like kids in a candy store. For them, none of it would matter but for the fact that it was the greatest day of their lives.