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Asia Cup

Aiming for the mountains: When Bhajji went massive to decide a tense India-Pakistan clash

Harbhajan Singh Asia Cup 2010
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

India needed seven from the last over, but Mohammad Amir brought it down to three from two balls. Then Harbhajan Singh aimed for the mountains.

Twenty-three years had passed since Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for six off the last ball of the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup. Until then, the head-to-head between the two teams stood at 8-7 in India’s favour. Between that six and Miandad’s retirement, Pakistan led 20-5. Perhaps a coincidence.

Between then and the 2010 Asia Cup, the two teams played more ODIs than at any point in their history. During this 14-year period, the two nations improved their diplomatic relationship; waged a war; tried to heal the wounds; and moved away yet again. The equation read a more competitive 42-32 in Pakistan’s favour, but the older fans Indian rued the fact that Miandad’s six had not been avenged.


In 2010, the ACC had shrunk the Asia Cup from six teams to four. Sri Lanka beat Pakistan before both India and Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh amidst surprisingly low interest. Then, on a Saturday afternoon, India met Pakistan at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium.

Salman Butt lived up to his reputation of performing against India with 74, falling to a brilliant run out by Ravindra Jadeja off his own bowling. Butt scored 992 of his 2,725 ODI runs against them, at 52.21, along with five of his eight hundreds. However, his international career would be undone amidst the murk of spot-fixing later that summer.

Kamran Akmal made merry down the order with a 41-ball 51 as Pakistan posted 267. Virender Sehwag refused to retire as he struggled with hip pain: he eventually fell for a 32-ball 10. Gautam Gambhir got 83 and MS Dhoni 56, but neither got their runs quickly; none of the two youngsters on the side – Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma – got the big runs.

The onus fell on Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, who got together when India needed 49 in 29 balls. Raina hit a four and a six in that over, but a more spectacular shot came from Harbhajan, who dispatched Shoaib Akhtar over wide long-on into the stands.

Raina pulled Akhtar for six as well, which did not go down well with Akhtar. He had two balls left in the penultimate over when Raina got off strike. He bounced twice, and Harbhajan missed both the uppercut and the pull, and gave it back when Akhtar had a word or two. India were left to chase seven in the last over.

Raina got a run off the first ball, and desperately wanted a bye off the second when Harbhajan swung and missed. Until then, Akmal had not only dropped Rohit but also had an ordinary night behind the stumps. This time, however, his underarm throw found a flying Raina short of the crease. After Praveen Kumar got a two – Akhtar misfielded – and a single, Harbhajan was left to score three off the last two balls.

Mohammad Amir ran in. In a few months’ time, he would be shunned by the cricket fraternity, but at this point he was hailed as the next big thing in Pakistan cricket.

Had Amir pitched the ball further, Harbhajan might not have got the elevation he needed to clear mid-wicket. Here, however, he not only middled the ball with a full swing of his bat but also managed to get the ball high enough to clear the ropes.

He celebrated with an audibly loud roar before he was engulfed in a hug by a sprinting Raina.

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