March 9 will forever be a landmark day in the hearts of Indian cricket fans as on this day in 1996 India beat Pakistan in the World Cup quarterfinal at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru by 39 runs to create history.
This game, the showpiece event of the entire tournament, had everything one desires from an India versus Pakistan game – controversy, high-voltage drama, flared tempers, emotions, quality batting, fierce challenges, epic ripostes and a fitting climax.
The entire match could be summed up within a space of two balls in the 15th over of Pakistan's run chase. With four balls bowled in the over, the Pakistani score was 109-1 as they were racing along en route a tall chase of 288 runs. The silence in the crowd was reminiscent of a classroom being conducted by the school's strictest teacher. The only noises emanating were off Pakistani willows meeting Indian leather as India was staring at a first World Cup defeat at the hands of the then defending champions.
Audible boos directed towards local boy Venkatesh Prasad only grew louder in the fifth ball of the over as Aamir Sohail disdainfully dispatched him to the cover boundary; and in a moment of rage, animatedly pointed towards the direction of the ball saying, "Go, fetch that!" Perhaps a victim of his own rage, Sohail tried to repeat the same of the very next ball. But this time, instead of leather, timber flew and Sohail was comprehensively bowled. Jibes turned into jubilation in the stands of the Chinnaswamy even as Prasad gave the opposition captain a send-off – "Go home, you f***ing b***ard."
That was arguably the tangible point where the game changed as Sohail's aggression was also his Achilles Heel. "Pakistan stand-in captain Aamir Sohail won his battle against the interfering ways of former captain Javed Miandad, who he banished to the outfield," wrote R Mohan in the 1996 Indian Cricket annual, "but he did not win the battle against his own temper, which he lost when he was right on top of the bowling and was hitting the seamers where he wished. It was a moment of the match when Prasad bowled him. Or was Sohail bowled by his own hot temper?"
The visiting team then lost the quick wickets of Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq; and much like their captain Wasim Akram pulled out of the match last minute, the Pakistani challenge pulled out of the run chase as Javed Miandad failed to keep up with an increasing run rate and a changing era. In his final ODI for Pakistan, there would be no last ball six or frantic jumps as from 84-0 in ten overs, Pakistan slumped to a tame finish.
Navjot Singh Sidhu may have been awarded the man of the match for his masterful innings of 93 but it was Ajay Jadeja's innings of 45 from 25 balls which included a 22-run over that will remain in the minds of the delirious fans in Bengaluru.
This was India's first victory against Pakistan on Indian soil since 1987 – a historic achievement and a jinx broken.