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 delve into the annals and dive into the unforgettable acts this clash has seen over the years.
Having listed down the top 10 innings played in Indo-Pak ODIs, let’s now take a look back at the top 10 spells bowled through the history of the match-up.
Imran Khan: 10-2-14-6, Rothmans Four-Nations Cup, Sharjah, 1985
The opening game of the 1985 Rothmans Four-Nations Cup pitted the two arch-rivals against each other. India were basking in the glory of their newly-captured world championship crown, to add to their World Cup title from 1983. But this meeting was at Sharjah – the venue that was to become a picture of Pakistani domination over India.
The first half of the contest, right from the first ball of the game, belonged to Imran Khan.
The Pakistan legend raided into the Indian batting lineup in what ranks among the most sensational opening spells ever delivered in an ODI.
Having trapped Ravi Shastri in front of the wickets with the first ball, Imran proceeded to take all five wickets as India slid to 34/5 in the first hour. The scalps? Shastri, Kris Srikkanth, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath.
Imran would return for the cherry on the top of his Indian cake, by way of Madan Lal, who would become his sixth victim. It would be, by far, Imran’s best performance with the ball in the limited overs game.
Kapil Dev: 6.5-1-17-3, Rothmans Four-Nations Cup, Sharjah, 1985
Believe it or not, Imran’s heroics would come in a lost cause.
India had been shot out for 125 – 77 of which came from the blades of Mohammed Azharuddin and Kapil Dev.
The World Cup-winning captain had contributed 30 of those runs from number seven, but he knew he needed to do a lot more for his team to produce a stunning turnaround.
An incisive opening spell failed to bring Kapil a single wicket, but Pakistan contrived to collapse to 41/5, with their middle-order trio of Javed Miandad, Ashraf Ali and Imran Khan contributing a combined total of zero runs.
Number three Rameez Raja, however, brought Pakistan back into the contest with a patient stand in the company of Saleem Malik. Malik’s departure left Raja fighting a lone battle, but the scorecard had reached 85 (for the loss of six wickets), and Pakistan were now 40 runs from the finish line.
Kapil brought himself back, and the game ended with the addition of only two further Pakistan runs. Three of those four wickets fell to the Indian skipper; India had pulled the unlikeliest of rabbits out of the hat.
Arshad Ayub: 9-0-21-5, Asia Cup, Dhaka, 1988
Arshad Ayub could very easily have been one among a factory line of spinners to make fleeting appearances for India through the 1980s, as the once spin-kings sought every measure to find a succession line to their legendary spin quartet from the ‘70s.
But one out of Ayub’s 32 ODI caps brought with it a spectacular return.
By the end of 1988, which is when this game was contested, India’s World Cup/World Championship high had more than run itself dry – we were now well into the era of India being Pakistan’s whipping boys, a period that began with the storied Austral-Asia Cup final from 1986.
In fact, coming into this must-win Asia Cup clash at Dhaka, India had lost nine of their last 10 ODIs against Pakistan since the start of 1986.
They were probably ruing their decision to ask their opponents to bat when Rameez Raja and Moin-ul-Atiq took Pakistan to 62 without loss. Enter Ayub.
The off-spinner prized the wicket of Raja, and followed it up by knocking down five of Pakistan’s top-eight, shooting them down for just 142.
India chased down the target, albeit with hiccups, and booked their spot in the final – where they would defeat Sri Lanka to lift their second Asian crown.
Ayub, for perspective, only once took more than two wickets in any of his other 31 ODI appearances for India (that, too, against Bangladesh).
Aaqib Javed: 10-1-37-7, Wills Trophy Final, Sharjah, 1991
The Ayub-inspired victory would prove to be an aberration in an otherwise heavily one-sided route that the India-Pakistan rivalry took towards the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
If India were running into Pakistan at Sharjah, fans on either side of the border expected only one result if it was a final, some on the Indian side of the LoC would prefer not watching.
In that context, the result of this Will Trophy final from October 1991 was fairly unremarkable. Pakistan scored 262, and blew India over for 190 for a comprehensive win.
But Aaqib Javed’s decimation of an on-paper strong Indian lineup stayed with people for a long time.
He razed the length of the batting order with barely-believable figures of 7/37, only the second instance of a bowler taking seven wickets in an ODI innings.
His seven wickets, mind you, were exclusively from the top-eight of the lineup.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the seven-for even included a hat-trick. The victims? Ravi Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar. All trapped leg before wicket.
Javed’s figures would remain the best in ODIs for another nine years.
Sourav Ganguly: 10-3-16-5, 3rd ODI, Toronto, 1997
Which Indian holds the record for the best bowling figures in an ODI against Pakistan?
Of all the guesses you would warrant to that question, one highly doubts Sourav Ganguly would feature towards the top. Oh cricket, you strange beast!
This was the series of Ganguly. A fortnight where the Friendship Cup – a then annual fixture that India and Pakistan would contest far away in Canada – could well have been renamed the ‘Dadagiri Trophy’.
Ganguly made 222 runs in five matches to top the batting charts. He also took 16 wickets in five matches to top the bowling charts.
Five of those came in an extraordinary spell in the third game, with the series level at 1-1.
The severely bowling-friendly conditions in Toronto had seen India struggle to 182/6 from their 50 overs, but Ganguly’s wizardry with the ball made that score seem much larger.
Pakistan were actually placed quite well at 103/3, but that’s before Ganguly took down their middle-order. He removed Ijaz Ahmed, Saleem Malik, Hasan Raza and Moin Khan, and later pocketed Aaqib Javed to complete his maiden five-for in international cricket.
Venkatesh Prasad: 9.3-2-27-5, ICC World Cup, Super Six, Manchester, 1999
The most defining Venkatesh Prasad imagery, not just from Indo-Pak clashes but perhaps from his entire career, is that Aamer Sohail moment during the 1996 World Cup quarter-final at his home ground in Bengaluru.
But the tall seamer’s most incisive contribution with the ball through his 161-ODI career would come in the next World Cup meeting between the arch-rivals.
This one, lest you forget, was contested even as soldiers from both the countries fought the Kargil war back home, and had begun with a rather cocksure comment from Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, who deemed the game nothing more than a “net session” for his boys.
Maybe some thought Akram had a point when his bowlers restricted India to 227/6, but Prasad had other ideas.
Operating as the first-change bowler, Prasad dismissed Saleem Malik and Saeed Anwar – both regular thorns in the Indian flesh – in his opening spell.
A second burst accounted for number seven Moin Khan.
Then, with Inzamam-ul-Haq pulling Pakistan to within 53 runs of the target with three wickets still remaining, Prasad finished the fight by removing the danger-man.
For perfect measure, he wrapped up the Pakistani innings with the scalp of Akram – to complete what would be the only five-wicket haul of his ODI career.
Rana Naved-ul-Hasan: 9-1-25-4, ICC Champions Trophy, Birmingham, 2004
For someone who played a large part of his international cricket in the shadows of other, faster, more ‘blessed’ pacers, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was quite the itch for the ‘golden generation’ of Indian batting through the mid-2000s.
Naved’s career average of 29.28 rocketed down to 23.69 against India; two of his six four-wicket hauls, as well as his sole five-for, came against these opponents.
The most telling of those hauls came in a virtual knockout.
Given that they had won four out of four World Cup meetings against Pakistan at this stage, India would have been quietly confident coming into this group-stage shootout to decide who went through to the semi-finals.
But they were asked to bat at Edgbaston, under loaded skies. And although the more prodigious Mohammad Sami and the fastest-of-all Shoaib Akhtar were around, it was the workman-like Naved who ripped the spine of the Indian order.
With the new ball, Naved sent VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag packing as India limped to 28/3 in the first 10 overs (Naved: 5-1-10-2).
Rahul Dravid and Ajit Agarkar stitched an 82-run seventh-wicket partnership that reignited India’s hopes of setting a competitive target; India’s two top-scorers on the day were removed in the space of three death deliveries from Naved.
Pakistan’s maiden victory over the old enemy at an ICC event owed a lot to the medium-class, medium-pace of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.
Wahab Riaz: 10-0-45-5, ICC World Cup Semi-Final, Mohali, 2011
What Naved was to the 2004 Pakistan team, Wahab Riaz, to some extent, was to the 2011 setup.
He was the new entrant, the outsider; all of 13 ODIs played coming into the World Cup, then shunted in-and-out of the XI depending on whether the think-tank felt an ageing Shoaib Akhtar was ready for battle.
For the crunch semi-final against the arch-rivals, Pakistan decided to put their faith in Riaz. And he did whatever he could to help upend his country’s World Cup hoodoo.
Virender Sehwag began the India innings as though he wanted another triple century; Riaz trapped him leg-before in the first over he bowled.
Virat Kohli was patiently giving Sachin Tendulkar company; Riaz did him with reverse swing – with a 25-over old ball.
Yuvraj Singh was the man-of-the-moment; his foray, at his home ground no less, lasted one Riaz delivery.
MS Dhoni was rebuilding and recalibrating his side’s effort; he, too, was trapped by the Riaz reverse.
The last two overs of his quota, the 48th and 50th of the Indian innings, Riaz conceded all of 12 runs – and got that fifth wicket he so deserved.
It was the first fifer for any Pakistan bowler in a World Cup clash against India; it remains the only fifer of Riaz’s ODI career.
The Indian Bowling Unit: ICC World Cup Semi-Final, Mohali, 2011
‘Team’ bowling efforts are hard to find in the limited overs game; surely, a combination of five different bowlers can’t all do their exact job on the same day.
It’s all-the-more rare to find from an Indian limited overs team; they barely ever have five ‘full’ bowling options in the first place.
The second of those constraints were taken care of during the run to the 2011 World Cup title thanks to the possession of Yuvraj Singh.
The first, well, you could have only hoped everything fell into place at the same point. That March evening in Mohali, defending 260, it did.
Ashish Nehra? 10-0-33-2. Less than 3.50 runs per over. 39 dot balls out of 60. Quite the last ODI to play for the country.
Munaf Patel? 10-1-40-2. The wicket of a well-set Mohammad Hafeez, and a modern-day ‘jaffa’ to bowl cast a spell on and castle the stumps of Abdul Razzak.
Harbhajan Singh? 10-0-43-2. A ripper to breach the defenses of Umar Akmal, and the prized scalp of potential game-changer Shahid Afridi.
Zaheer Khan? 9.5-0-58-2. Be wise with your judgment of the economy rate, because his were the toughest overs to bowl, in each game. And he bookended the fall of wickets, removing Kamran Akmal at the top, and Misbah-ul-Haq to cap off the win.
And then, bowler number five, Yuvraj Singh? 10-1-57-2. Might seem leaky, but the wickets? Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan, Pakistan’s number three and four, in successive overs, after the visitors had reached a suffocating 103/2 near the halfway stage.
Cumulative job done. Spot in the final secured.
Mohammad Amir: 6-2-16-3, ICC Champions Trophy Final, London, 2017
From an all-encompassing team effort to possibly the greatest individual effort in any modern-day knockout game.
Pakistan had no business being in the Champions Trophy final, but they were.
Pakistan had no shot at scoring 338 against India, but they did.
Even still, this was the World No 1 ranked team they were facing. And they possessed a top-three which was doing the entire tournament’s scoring through the fortnight.
So, surely, India had a chance, and we were in line for a super finish, right? Never more wrong.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli had combined to score 874 runs in four matches – more than 70% of India’s total runs – to carry the team into the summit clash, without the need for any other batsmen to do anything.
Sharma fell for a duck; Kohli was dropped on five, then ousted next ball; Dhawan scratched around, but he too couldn’t go beyond 21.
All three wickets, in the space of one hostile spurt of fast-bowling, to Mohammad Amir.
At the ground where he’d hit his nadir seven painful years ago.
The bottom-ranked had thrashed the top-ranked, and Pakistan were champions.