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When Mohammad Kaif’s sensational running catch silenced Karachi

Mohammad Kaif
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

In what proved to be one of the many India-Pakistan classics, Mohammad Kaif took a sensational running catch that gave the game its decisive twist, helping India inch past their rivals in a high-scoring thriller.

There are few bigger rivalries in international sport than that of India and Pakistan’s cricket teams but political tensions and the Kargil War had prevented the two from meeting on Pakistani soil in a full bilateral series – including Tests and ODIs – for 15 years.

And so in 2004, after a peace agreement paved the way for India’s cricketers to cross the border, all eyes were on the one-dayers that preceded what would prove to be a topsy-turvy Test series, eventually won by India.

In the days ahead of the series-opener at Karachi, there was still some doubt over whether the match would even take place as riots broke out in the city during the sale of tickets. Tensions were high, the atmosphere combustible.

Security eventually gave the all-clear and a capacity crowd of 35,000 packed into the National Stadium to see Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami crank it up to in excess of 150kph after Pakistan won the toss and opted to field. But the faster Pakistan’s quicks sent it down, the harder it came back at them as Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag took India to 349-7. Pakistan would need a world-record second-innings score to haul them in.

At 278-3 the hosts were well set, with their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leading the charge. His dismissal signalled a stutter but with 10 needed from eight balls and four wickets in hand, Pakistan remained in control. That all changed when a sensational catch turned the game on its head.

Kaif was India’s standout fielder during the early 2000s

The noise was deafening as Zaheer Khan ran in and bowled a length ball on leg-stump, which Shoaib Malik smashed high into the air. India’s young stroke-maker Mohammed Kaif burst out of the traps, running a full 30 yards from long-off before leaping over his teammate Hemang Badani and taking the ball inches from the floor, his body horizontal to the ground.

A deathly silence fell over the stadium. With their last recognised batsman gone, the Pakistani fans knew the tide had turned and so it proved as Ashish Nehra saw out the game, conceding just three runs from the final over. Pakistan had surpassed the highest total batting second in an ODI and still fallen to a five-run defeat.

In the stands a supporter waved a half-Indian, half-Pakistani flag, emblazoned with the words ‘One Blood’. India may have won this particular battle but the fact that hostilities had halted and allowed two great rivals to play out such an electrifying contest on Pakistani soil was cause for celebration on both sides of the border.

First published in 2014.

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