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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thrills and spills in India-Pakistan Cup matches

Excitement and pressure will go hand in hand when Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Indians clash with Shahid Afridi's Pakistanis in Wednesday's high-voltage World Cup semi-final in Mohali.

There has never been a dull moment ever since the two countries played their first World Cup match in 1992 at Sydney.

Pakistan, playing impressive cricket in the ongoing tournament, will also be determined to overcome a jinx after having lost all of their four World Cup matches against their arch-rivals.

All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, man of the match in Pakistan's quarter-final win over the West Indies in Dhaka on Wednesday, has said he is keenly looking forward to playing in Mohali.

"It will be really exciting to play India. The atmosphere will be really electrifying. Playing in front of an Indian crowd will be interesting," Hafeez recently told an Indian newspaper.

"I hope India and Pakistan play more matches in future."

It will be the third one-dayer between India and Pakistan in nearly three years as the cricketing ties between the two snapped following the 2008 attacks on India's financial hub Mumbai.

The World Cup matches between India and Pakistan have provided plenty of thrills.

Top Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad was a photographers' delight in 1992 when he jumped up and down, apparently in imitation of Indian wicket-keeper Kiran More who had been repeatedly appealing.

The 43-run defeat at Sydney did not affect Pakistan's chances as they rallied from the brink to win the World Cup under Imran Khan's inspirational leadership.

But the next defeat in the 1996 World Cup did.

Pakistan's 39-run defeat came in the quarter-final at Bangalore where many believed they had lost half the battle before the first ball had been bowled.

Their captain and quality paceman, Wasim Akram, withdrew from the game due to an injury -- a decision the fans found hard to swallow. He was later widely criticised for pulling out of a big match.

Pakistan lost the remaining half of the battle when well-set opener Aamer Sohail lost his cool and wicket after being involved in a verbal duel with Indian seamer Venkatesh Prasad.

Chasing a 288-run target, Pakistan were 113-1 before Sohail was bowled for 55 to become one of Prasad's three victims. It was all over when veteran Miandad was run out for 38 in what turned to be his last World Cup appearance.

The third World Cup clash came at Old Trafford in England in 1999. It was again Prasad who troubled Pakistan, claiming five wickets to help India win by 47 runs in a Super Sixes fixture.

The 2003 World Cup match at Centurion in South Africa was dubbed as a duel between superstars Sachin Tendulkar of India and Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar.

Tendulkar won the fascinating battle, smashing a robust 98 before becoming the paceman's lone victim of the innings. Akhtar conceded 72 in 10 overs in his team's six-wicket defeat.

Tendulkar is now just one ton short of completing 100 international centuries while Akhtar is retiring after the World Cup.

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