On Sunday, two of cricket’s fiercest rivals will lock horns for the 132nd time.
The India-Pakistan past, when it comes to the World Cup, is skewed entirely in one direction. India’s fabled 6-0 lead in World Cup encounters from 1992 to 2015 rids the tie of any legitimate claims to being a top ‘rivalry’, but the picture is quite different outside of that.
On the overall count, it is Pakistan who have dominated this contest, winning 73 out of 131 ODIs between the countries while losing only 54.
40 years of 50-over cricket between the neighbours have brought with them numerous epics and an endless highlights reel. As India and Pakistan brace for their ICC World Cup 2019 bout in Manchester, it’s an apt time to dive into the unforgettable acts this clash has seen over the years.
We take a look back at the top 10 innings played in Indo-Pak ODIs:
Disclaimer: There is no actual rank to these knocks; the selected 10 have been listed in chronological order.
Javed Miandad: 116* off 114 balls, Austral-Asia Cup Final, Sharjah, 1986
Where else does one begin any list around anything to do with India-Pakistan cricket?
Arguably the most recalled Houdini act of cricket remains a limitless source of joy on the Pakistan side of the LoC, while continuing to haunt those across the border in India.
India — winners of the World Cup in 1983 and the World Championship in 1985 — were looking good for a hat-trick of crowns when they posted 245/7, on the back of half-centuries from Kris Srikkanth, Sunil Gavaskar, and Dilip Vengsarkar.
For Pakistan, Javed Miandad mounted a solo rearguard in the run-chase, but it appeared as though the lack of any real help from the other end — Mohsin Khan and Abdul Qadir were the only batsmen to cross 30, and no one touched 40 — would prove to be their undoing.
It boiled down to four off the final ball, with number 11 Tauseef Ahmed at the other end.
Chetan Sharma attempted a yorker, but missed his length. The rest, as you know, is history – and formed a psychological pull that Pakistan held over India for the best part of the next decade-and-a-half.
Saeed Anwar: 194 off 146 balls, Independence Cup, Chennai, 1997
Another Herculean effort from another Pakistan batting great which India took a while getting over for more than a decade, again.
It wasn’t until Sachin Tendulkar became the first man to breach the 200-mark in ODIs, in February 2010 against South Africa, that Indian cricket could begin to erase three dreaded digits from head: 194.
In a winner-takes-all round-robin finale, with a spot in the title clash against Sri Lanka up for grabs, Saeed Anwar embarked upon a marathon that was barely imaginable at the time. Viv Richards’ 189 against England had held the summit of the men’s game for 13 years and 945 ODIs, before Anwar took over the throne with his epic.
118 of his runs came through boundaries — 22 fours and five sixes — and the remarkable bit about the effort is that he got out, to Tendulkar of all people, with 20 balls still left in the innings.
It propelled Pakistan to 327/5, and into the final, despite the best efforts of Rahul Dravid, who bagged his maiden ODI hundred as India finished with 292.
The mantle of the highest individual score in ODI history rested with Anwar for the next 13 years, although he shared it with Charles Coventry for the last year after the Zimbabwean’s 194 not out against Kenya in 2009.
Sourav Ganguly: 124 off 138, Silver Jubilee Independence Cup, 3rd Final, Dhaka, 1998
Less than a year later, Anwar was taming India in another decisive contest, the deciding third final of the Silver Jubilee Independence Cup in Dhaka to celebrate 25 years of Bangladesh, only for an equally-elegant left-handed opener in the other camp to steal the show.
Another delightful century from the Pakistan star, stopped this time at a ‘mere’ 140, had taken his team to an imposing 314/5. It might not sound massive from the excesses of the ODI game over the past decade, but sample this for perspective: At the time, only once had a team successfully chased a target above 300 in ODI history (Sri Lanka’s 313/7 vs Zimbabwe at the 1992 World Cup).
So you get an idea of the task at hand for the Indian team.
India’s successful record run-chase had several heroes. Sachin Tendulkar set the stage with a blistering 26-ball 41, Robin Singh maintained that impetus with 82 at nearly a run a ball from number three, and an unheralded Hrishikesh Kanitkar would hit the penultimate ball for four to become a household name in the country. However, Sourav Ganguly was the thread to which the entire Indian effort was tied.
The ‘Prince of Calcutta’ handled both the new-ball guile of Aaqib Javed and Azhar Mahmood and the spin-bowling wiles of Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi with aplomb to marshal the record chase with a responsible 124 — only his second ODI ton, scored at a healthy strike rate of 89.85.
Sachin Tendulkar: 98 off 75 balls, ICC World Cup, Centurion, 2003
The master’s finest hour. Sachin Tendulkar had dreamt of this game for a year. As it loomed, it deprived the Master Blaster of sleep for 15 straight nights.
But such was his accomplishment over two-and-a-half-hours of pristine batsmanship that he would land a knockout punch akin to Miandad’s all those years earlier, literally as well as figuratively.
India and Pakistan hadn’t met each other in an international fixture for 30 months, and India’s target of 274 — set, once again, by the heroics of one Saeed Anwar — was 52 greater than any total they had ever successfully chased at the World Cup.
In front of the Indian team was an ageing, yet A-list bowling attack, that began with the names Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
The contest between Sachin and Shoaib had been billed up for the year that the world had known about the impending fixture in Centurion on 1 March 2003. It was rendered a no-contest in the space of three balls of Akhtar’s first over.
A rasping upper-cut for six, the sound of which still rings in the ears of many an Indian fan; a trademark flick of the wrist, ingrained in the SRT scrapbook; and then a punched-drive which was neither on or off — you could call it straight, but it was only, truly, a God drive.
Tendulkar fell two short of what would have been, surely, his greatest ODI hundred. It didn’t matter, because Pakistan had been knocked out of the World Cup. And the balance of power in the Indo-Pak cricket rivalry had shifted.
Virender Sehwag: 79 off 57 balls, 1st ODI, Karachi, 2004
A year after that storied World Cup meeting at Centurion came a landmark moment in India-Pakistan cricket ties. Increasingly hospitable diplomatic ties meant an Indian team was given the clearance for a full tour of Pakistan for the first time since Sachin Tendulkar’s debut series in 1989.
Fans on either side of the border yearned for a classic to make up for all the lost time, and the five ODIs and three Tests provided more than they could have hoped for.
It all began with a one-dayer considerably ahead of its time.
This was early 2004, and the T20 boom was only around the corner, so 300 still meant something as a total.
In the tour opener, at Karachi, India pummeled 349. And only just sneaked a five-run win off the last ball.
It was a game laden with individual batting gems: Inzamam-ul-Haq hit, arguably, his best ODI ton to allow Pakistan to dare in the run-chase; Rahul Dravid had earlier missed out on one of his best hundreds by just one run, bowled off a Shoaib Akhtar cutter on 99.
But the most jaw-dropping performance on a jaw-dropping day of cricket came right at the start, as Virender Sehwag pounded the Pakistan pace attack with a shellacking that belonged a decade in the future.
Sehwag biffed 14 fours and a six in a 57-ball stay that yielded 79 runs; India were 142 in 14.2 overs when he was dismissed.
Shoaib Malik: 143 off 127 balls, Asia Cup, Colombo, 2004
Shoaib Malik had an affinity for India long before he met his match in Indian tennis star Sania Mirza. The all-rounder reserved his best — and by far most consistent — displays for his friends from across the border.
Four of Malik’s nine ODI centuries have come against India, and almost all of them were knocks of great consequence: two were hit in Asia Cup ties, one in a Champions Trophy virtual knockout clash.
The first of the lot is perhaps among the top knocks by any Pakistan batsman in the last 15 years.
Barely three months after being beaten in both the Tests and the ODIs during that historic Indian visit of Pakistan, the aggrieved unit once again met their recent conquerors at the Asia Cup.
The tie was a must-win one for Pakistan to keep themselves in contention for a berth in the final, and they lost a wicket in the first over itself after opting to bat.
That was the last time India were ahead in the contest, because at one-down came Malik, and changed the course of the match.
He creamed the pace trio of Irfan Pathan, L Balaji, and Ashish Nehra; he milked the spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble; he clinically toyed with a strong Indian attack, finding the boundary on 18 occasions and going beyond it once.
Malik contributed 143 off just 127 balls to Pakistan’s 300/9. And he retained enough energy to come out and bowl 10 measly overs which included the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh.
MS Dhoni: 148 off 123 balls, 2nd ODI, Visakhapatnam, 2005
The knock that made Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
You know the tale all too well. Playing his fifth ODI, having managed only 20 runs in four previous outings, promoted to number three, playing, in all probability, for his immediate future in the Indian team.
And Dhoni swaggered out, smacked it around, gave Sehwag (74 off 40) a run for his money, relentlessly continued his onslaught, and made what was the highest score by an Indian ‘keeper in ODIs (a record he himself would rewrite a few months later).
It also remains the third-highest individual score in all India-Pakistan ODIs, but it wasn’t so much the volume of runs as the way in which they were compiled.
Dhoni hit lofted drives over cover, bunted aerial cuts ala Sehwag, found the roof with his muscular big hits, and ran like no one ever had wearing those blue pads.
It was only the start of something special.
Shahid Afridi: 102 off 46 balls, 5th ODI, Kanpur, 2005
Unfortunately for Dhoni and India, his heroics weren’t even the most devastating innings of that particular series, because Shahid Afridi unleashed himself on the Indian bowling attack three matches later as only Shahid Afridi could.
With the series level at 2-2, India’s hopes at Kanpur rested on early strikes after they ended with a quite under-par 249/6. The only strikes that came in the opening hour of Pakistan’s innings were from the ‘Boom Boom’ blade.
Afridi actually began rather sedately, in taking just one run off his first four deliveries. Of his next 10 balls, he ransacked 42.
This was no pedestrian bowling attack — Zaheer, Balaji, Kumble, Harbhajan — but it wouldn’t have mattered if it were the greatest quartet of all time, because Afridi was in the zone.
He reached three figures off 45 balls, still the fastest in Indo-Pak ODIs and the joint fifth-fastest in ODI history. The innings was all of 14.2 overs old when he walked back to the pavilion; Pakistan only needed a further 119 to complete a quite stunning turnaround and go 3-2 up in a series India had led 2-0 at the end of the Dhoni special at Vizag.
Virat Kohli: 183 off 148 balls, Asia Cup, Dhaka, 2012
Virat Kohli’s first real bite into the India-Pakistan cherry, and a bite meant for giants, in a sign of what was to be.
The first indications of the ‘chase master’ had been seen just 20 days earlier, when Kohli’s hurricane at Hobart had gobsmacked Lasith Malinga and Sri Lanka. Back in the more familiar climes of the subcontinent, the then-23-year-old now took on the more storied rivals in another big chase.
Kohli was out in the middle just two balls into India’s pursuit of 330 at Mirpur, against a Pakistan attack comprising of Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, and the spin troika of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez.
He got out four balls before the match finished – having finished whatever there was to finish in the match.
In between, he orchestrated a march that defied sensibilities; Kohli contributed 73 to a 133-run stand with Sachin Tendulkar, and then 103 to a 172-run association with Rohit Sharma.
All told, there were 22 fours and a maximum during his 211-minute stay.
World cricket’s next great batsman had punched in.
Fakhar Zaman: 114 off 106 balls, Champions Trophy Final, London, 2017
The knock that should not have been, from the anchor who so easily could not have been.
Pakistan navy officer Fakhar Zaman had needed a series of fortunate events to land in cricket’s big leagues (he was a last-minute draft into the PSL in 2017 after a ban on Sharjeel Khan); his biggest contribution on the cricket field till date owes a debt to one serendipitous happening.
Pakistan, the lowest-ranked side in the competition, were barely finding their feet in the final after being put in by the world’s top-ranked unit. Three disciplined overs from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah had seen just seven runs scored.
The first ball of Bumrah’s second, and the innings’ fourth over, was a wide; next ball, he induced an edge off the flashy blade of Zaman, which was comfortably pouched by MS Dhoni.
Except Bumrah had overstepped.
The biggest credit to Zaman lies in what followed next. It’s not like he felt the pin drop and thought, “okay, this is my lucky day, let’s go for it”. Instead, he saw off the danger.
Pakistan were 56/0 after 10 overs, and Zaman, at that stage was only 16 off 29. At the end of the 15th, he was still only on 33 off 45.
From his next 61 deliveries, he amassed 81.
Zaman, just so you know, was playing his first-ever international series/tournament.