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When India narrowly missed out on playing their first neutral Test in 1999

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The World Test Championship final is set to be India’s first-ever neutral Test match in their 89-year Test history, but they nearly played one 22 years ago, in Dhaka.

A tri-series involving Test matches was the brainchild of the Asian Cricket Council in the late 1990s as they planned the Asian Test Championship in 1999 involving Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India.

Pakistan toured India right before the series, so close that the planned third Test in Kolkata was decided to be the first match of the Asian Test Championship.

India walloped Pakistan in the first session on day one as Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad reduced the visitors to 26-6. Moin Khan’s 70 and handy contributions from Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram helped Pakistan post 185, a total that India would surpass despite Shoaib Akthar cleaning up Sachin Tendulkar for a golden duck.

A Saeed Anwar hundred helped Pakistan set 279 as a target, one that India seemed to be cruising towards at 143-2. However, Sachin Tendulkar was run out in controversial circumstances as a direct hit from the deep – substitute fielder Nadeem Khan soaking in all the glory – caught Tendulkar marginally short, right after he collided with the bowler Akhtar who was standing in his way in anticipation of the throw.

The decision was referred to the third umpire who gave Tendulkar out. With all neutral officials, India had no place to go to and Tendulkar, understandably miffed, went straight to the TV Umpire’s room to watch replays.

The crowd started pelting stones and hurling abuses at the Pakistani players and it needed a long intermission – including a personal plea from Tendulkar to the crowd – before the game could resume. India’s innings derailed when the game resumed as they lost Rahul Dravid, Mohammad Azharuddin and Nayan Mongia in quick succession.

Early on day five, Sourav Ganguly – the only recognised batsman remaining – was dismissed to rile up the crowd again. As things turned ugly again, they had to be evacuated as Pakistan completed a win in front of empty stands. The 46-run loss proved costly as India drew against Sri Lanka in Colombo and Pakistan also played out a draw against Sri Lanka.

It meant Pakistan and Sri Lanka went through to the finals in Dhaka in Bangladesh. Had India completed a win against Pakistan – a possibility that appeared very realistic at several points in the Test – their first neutral Test would have come at Dhaka in 1999 in the Asian Test Championship.

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