Remembering the famous 1999 Chennai Test between India and Pakistan

Lav Kumar

It was a warlike situation between India and Pakistan in 1999 when the Pakistani team decided to visit India for a bilateral series. The first Test of that series was played in Chennai starting 28th January 1999.

As expected, a jam-packed stadium and an enthusiastic crowd were there to witness the match. Pakistan's captain Wasim Akram won the toss and elected to bat first. The left-right combination of Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi opened for Pakistan, however, Srinath sent both the openers to the pavilion within 10 overs with a score of less than 50. Post this, Inzamam, Ijaz Ahmed and Salim Malik also fell in quick succession and Pakistan at one stage were struggling at 91 for 5.

To keep the innings going, Moin Khan built a partnership with Mohammad Yousuf and both of them scored half-centuries. Wasim Akram's important 38 runs was able to take Pakistan to a decent total of 238. Anil Kumble gave a stellar performance by picking up 6 wickets in the first innings. With some overs still left in the first day's play, Indian openers VVS Laxman and S Ramesh played sensibly and India were 48 for no loss at the conclusion of an eventful first day.

Indian batsmen were hopeful for a big first-innings lead but Pakistan came back strongly on the second day and the Indian openers were sent to the pavilion early in the day.

Even Sachin Tendulkar couldn't trouble the scores. Fifties from Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly took India past Pakistan's first innings score but with a meager lead of 16 runs. Saqlain Mushtaq picked up a fifer and Afridi picked three wickets.

The start of the second innings saw Pakistan losing Anwar early. Shahid Afridi played a blinder, scoring 141 from 191 deliveries and Inzamam's 51 took Pakistan to a total of 286. Venkatesh Prasad was the star of the second innings in the bowling department.

He not only picked six crucial wickets, but in his last spell he wrapped up Pakistan's tail by picking five wickets without giving a single run. Pakistan gave a target of 271 to India to chase in the fourth innings.

With an achievable total at hand, the Indians looked confident but lost both the openers early to Waqar Younis and were struggling at 6 for 2. At the other end, Wasim Akram was breathing fire and Saqlain Mushtaq was waiting to get the ball in hand on a fast-breaking pitch.

At the time of desperate need, Sachin Tendulkar came in and hit three boundaries to Wasim Akram in quick succession and showed that the match was far from being over. India were 40 for 2 with Dravid and Sachin at the crease after the end of the third day.

A full house in MA Chidambaram stadium on the fourth day was proof enough of the Indian hopes with the duo of Dravid and Sachin still batting.

Tendulkar, on the first ball from Wasim Akram, glanced for a four but it was evident that runs were not easy to come by on such a pitch. To add on to the miseries, Pakistan's bowling attack comprising of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Saqlain Mushtaq were deadly. Rahul Dravid tried a lot but got out on the score of 10 to Wasim Akram and India were 50 for the loss of 3 wickets.

In walked Azharuddin who struggled against both pace and spin for an hour and eventually got out to Saqlain making India 73 for 4. Ganguly also struggled for half an hour and was given out by an outrageous decision by the umpire. At lunch, India was 86 for 5 with Tendulkar batting on 44. He was running out of partners and the target was looking beyond reach. The post lunch session saw a crucial partnership between Sachin and Mongia. Both of them fought hard for runs which were hard to come by.

Sachin soon reached his half-century, slowly stitching the partnership towards victory, but the 78th over witnessed a struggling Sachin on the field. At the time, India was 152/5 and Sachin on 83, with his lower back hurting. The physio was called but he continued playing and was able to reach the three figures shortly. Mongia also reached his fifty and India started looking in a dominant position.

But the match was far from being over yet. A loose shot from Mongia gave Pakistan the wicket they had been waiting for and India was 6 down at the score of 218, still in need of 53 more runs.

In this moment of dire need, Sunil Joshi came out to bat and tried building a partnership with Tendulkar. However, since Sachin's back was hurting too much he decided to play his shots. He hit some crisp boundaries to Wasim and Waqar and used the paddle sweep against Saqlain. India was just 17 runs short of the target when Tendulkar mistimed a shot and Pakistan got the crucial wicket they wanted.

Tendulkar was dejected and slowly walked to the pavilion with the crowd standing and giving a thunderous applause. He had played one of the best innings in Test match cricket.

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Opposite to what one would have wanted to believe, the rest of the players could manage only four runs and India lost the match by 12 runs and Sachin's brilliant innings went in total vain.

Sachin wept in the dressing room and was so disappointed that he didn't even come to collect his Man of the Match award. An exciting tale of blood and tears and perhaps the greatest innings the Test format ever witnessed turned out to be the saddest tragedy in the splendid career of the master blaster. A match that will continue to be remembered by millions for that moment of inconsolable heartbreak.