26th September, 2009: Amir takes down Tendulkar

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On the 26th of September, 2009, was played a mouth watering contest between arch rivals Pakistan and India.

The super sport park in Centurion hosted the ICC champions trophy fixture between the two sides. Pakistan went into the game on the back of a near comfortable win against the West Indies. Younus Khan returned to side and resumed charged as captain, although, he was struggling with a fracture in the little finger of his left hand. Pakistan’s side was also featuring a 17 year old fast bowler Muhammad Amir. Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat on a dry super sport park surface. Imran Nazir and Kamran Akmal got Pakistan off to a flyer. But Ashish Nehra dismissed them both in quick succession leaving Pakistan at 20/2. Things got worse when captain Younus Khan edged Rudra Pradap Singh to MS Dhoni. Pakistan were now three down with just 30 odd on the board on a beautiful batting surface.

In came veteran Muhammad Yousuf. Perhaps Pakistan’s best batsman quality wise. He formed a partnership of over 200 runs with Shoaib Malik. The highlight of that partnership was the beautiful late cuts that Shoaib Malik played against the spinners. Harbhajan Singh was taken to task by Shoaib, cutting him past short third man and point for boundaries. MS Dhoni was lost for bowling options. Apart from Ashish Nehra, everyone got hammered. Muhammad Yousuf scored 89 while Shoaib Malik scored yet another century against India. He amassed 128 runs. Pakistan piled up 302 runs in their allotted 50 overs. Much less than what seemed likely at one stage. It still, though, was a competitive total. Ashish Nehra outbowled all the Indian bowlers. He picked 4 wickets and crucial ones. Shoaib Malik top scored with 128 while Muhammad Yousuf supported him well with his attractive 89 runs.

The Indian response started with Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir opening the innings. Both the openers hit some beautiful boundaries to kick start the innings. But then a 17 year old rookie, Muhammad Amir, got Sachin nicking to the wicket keeper Kamran Akmal. It was undoubtedly the biggest moment of his life then. Pakistan would have thought that they had half the game in their hands. But Gambhir and Rahul Dravid had other ideas. Gambhir counter attacked while Dravid was steady. No bowler had an answer to Gambhir’s onslaught. He brought up his fifty in quick time. Just as it seemed that India was bossing the game, Younus Khan ran Gambhir out with a direct hit. Gambhir, infuriated, yelled away as he rushed to the dressing room. Skipper MS Dhoni then joined Rahul Dravid. Dhoni’s stay at the crease was short lived though. Shahid Afridi trapped him leg before. Afridi got rid of Virat Kohli soon after Dhoni’s dismissal. Kohli tried to hit him over extra cover but mistimed it to Umar Gul at long off.

Pakistan were now in control of the game. India were four down, still needing about 180 runs to win at over a run a ball. Suresh Raina was the next man in. Dravid, the wall, was still there. He was circumspect and understandably so. Raina, just like Gambhir, counter attacked. He smashed Shoaib Malik over extra cover for a boundary. The very next ball he slog swept for six. The required rate was back under control. Just as India regained control of the game, there was another twist in the tale. Younus Khan, desperate for a wicket, brought Saeed Ajmal into the attack. And the first ball he bowled got rid of Raina. A quick delivery trapping Raina in front. Raina was unhappy with decision but hawk eye proved the umpire right. Soon after, Yousuf Pathan nicked Muhammad Amir to Misbah-Ul-Haq at slip. Now the game was all but over for India.

Rahul Dravid was still there but was tiring. Soon he started suffering from cramps. He was run out after a mix up with Harbhajan Singh. Rana Naveed followed the act up by befuddling RP Singh with a slower delivery. He soon followed it up with a breath taking yorker, too good for the tall frame of Ishant Sharma. Saeed Ajmal finished off the innings by cleaning up Harbhajan Singh. A reverse sweep which Bhajji couldn’t connect. Pakistan won the game by 48 runs and qualified for the Semi final. India could not qualify for the Semi final as they had a rained off game against Australia.

Shoaib Malik was adjudged man of the match for his superb innings of 128 runs. Pakistan ended up losing their last two games in the tournament. The first one, a nail biting loss to Australia. And then the loss to New Zealand in the Semi final. Australia ended up being the champions while New Zealand were the runner ups.

The game will be remembered for Muhammad Amir’s wicket of the great Sachin Tendulkar. A 17 year old dismissing the greatest batsman in the world. A beautiful delivery leaving the right hander off the surface. Amir also got wickets of Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin Peterson in his career. In the second half of his career, he has troubled Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma a lot.

The Champions trophy of 2009 was the last major event in which Younus Khan captained Pakistan. Senior players revolted against him and he had to give up captaincy after the New Zealand series in November. It was also the last major tournament in which Rahul Dravid represented India. Imran Nazir also played the last ODI game of his career in the champions trophy of 2009 which was the Semi final against the kiwis.

Ten years down the line, only one member of the 2009 Champions trophy squad remains in the present Pakistan setup. No guesses as to who that man is. Muhammad Amir is now 27, much more experienced and also retired from test cricket. A lot has changed in Pakistan cricket in the last 10 years. From the captains, to coaches, the selectors and most importantly, the domestic cricket structure. Hopefully Pakistan cricket will head in the right direction in years to come. Muhammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Sarfaraz Ahmed,Babar Azam and Misbah-Ul-Haq have a massive role to play in that.