This UAE cricket season is full with major events. The Asia Cup kicks off a run of mouth-watering series, from the international elite playing the sport’s oldest format, to a variety of new and innovative limited-overs competitions.
Cricket in the Emirates might never have reached this point had India and Pakistan not agreed to regular fixtures at the new stadium built in Sharjah at the turn of the 1980s. Many of those meetings between the two old rivals rank among the greatest fixtures in the format’s history.
1. The shot heard around the world
Sharjah has staged more limited-overs matches than any other venue in world cricket. One stands heads and shoulders above all others, though.
It was like a Boy’s Own fantasy. Pakistan had one wicket left, and needed four off the last-ball to win the 1986 Australasia Cup against their fiercest foes.
Chetan Sharma bowled it. Centurion Javed Miandad heaved it for six. “Miandad The Great,” exclaimed the commentator.
2. Awesome Aaqib
Earlier in 2018, in the space of three balls of a county match, Lancashire bowler Jordan Clark took the wickets of Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Jonny Bairstow.
Between them they have over 15,000 Test match runs - and counting. Many mused whether it was the best hat-trick ever.
Over in Lahore, Aaqib Javed might have been thinking: “Hey, Jordan, is that all you’ve got?” In 1991 he dismissed Ravi Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar in consecutive deliveries. He took four other wickets in the innings as well. Not a bad shift.
3. Sachin on song
Sachin Tendulkar made seven centuries in the 42 matches he played in Sharjah – but just one against the team he played far more than anyone else.
His lone century in UAE matches against Pakistan resulted in what was a rare win for India against their neighbours in April 1996. It helped India bump Pakistan out of that year’s three-team Sharjah Cup.
Although Tendulkar made another half-century in the final, it was in a losing cause as South Africa took the title.
4. Wonders of Wasim
In 1999 Wasim Akram was captain of Pakistan, and at the peak of his powers with the ball. In the Sharjah Cup final that year, India did not stand a chance.
With the first ball of the match, he had a strong shout for lbw against Sadagoppan Ramesh turned down. No matter, as he trapped him two balls later. Next ball, he got Rahul Dravid for a golden duck.
He ended with three for 11 off eight as India crumbled to 125 all out. Game over.
5. Kapil-led capitulation
With the heat and the docile wicket, Sharjah has long had a reputation as being a graveyard for bowlers. It was not always the case, though.
In the first match of the Rothmans Four Nations Cup in 1985, Imran Khan took six for 14 from his 10 overs, as India managed just 125. That proved to be plenty, as Pakistan fell to just 87 all out.
“We got out for 125 runs, and they could not make a hundred, that was very, very interesting,” said India captain Kapil Dev, who regards that match as one of his favourite Sharjah memories.
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Also from Paul Radley: India v Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates - By the numbers