March 13, 1987 was the day when the arch rivals: India and Pakistan took the field, for one last time, in the test series at Chinnaswamy stadium Bangalore. The series was tied 0-0, thus rendering this to be a decider. The first four games were played mainly on dead-pitches, with exception of Eden Gardens which offered some hope of a result, but Pakistan held on to a draw. This also was going to be the last outing for Little Master of India in the longer version of the game as he had announced that he would retire after the World Cup later in the year. Both captains: Imran and Kapil were keen on breaking the deadlock in their teams favor.
The man who made this test exciting and really memorable one was the curator of the pitch. The ball was turning almost a couple of feet on day one. Maninder sing wrecked the Pakistani line up with his career best figures on 7/27 as the visitors crashed to 116 all out in their first essay. Later Dilip Vengsrakar capitalized on a good opening stand, with a solid half century. After gaining the early advantage, team India’s much touted middle order committed hara-kiri of sorts to lose last 7 wickets for mere 43 runs and ended with a marginal lead of 29 at the end of part I. Hosts had left a back-door entry open for the visitors to sneak back and they obliged. Pakistan forged useful partnerships in the second innings and were aided by some master-strokes by skipper Imran as he promoted Qasim as a tea-watchmen, who frustrated the hosts for over an hour. Keeper Saleem Yusuf added the most valuable 51 runs with #10 Tauseef to give Pakistan a challenging 220 to defend.
221 on a sharp turner like this one were always going to be challenging for any side and Akram provided the much needed start as he grabbed Srkkanth and Amrnath of the consecutive deliveries. With all this happening at one end one man stood cautiously at the other displaying impeccable defense and exquisite shot selection. He batted like he was on a different planet and was batting on an entirely different strip. He made the dreadful spin duo of Pakistan look ordinary and never deterred from his ultimate goal – taking his side successfully towards the target. This man was Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, playing his 125th and last test match.
This innings was an exhibition of paramount concentration. The falling of wickets at regular interval at the other end did not distract his focus on the eventual objective. Vengsarkar and Azharuddin forged a couple of crucial stands with sunny to get India closer, however, quick losses of Shastri and Kapil put the hosts severely on the back foot. On day four, at lunch, game was precariously poised with India needing 60 with 3 wickets intact. The only hope for the hosts was the little master. He continued the fight after lunch, this time taking Binny under his wings and an improbable victory looked a possibility. Imran’s boys threw everything at him but couldn’t break through this wall. Just when it looked as if Sunny would see India through, an umpiring error, abruptly ended one of the finest efforts. He was given caught-behind, however, umpire failed to notice that the ball had come off his arm-guard.
It was monumental endeavor that lasted five and half hour, more than the entire first innings of India or Pakistan and a tad less than Pakistan’s second innings. He faced almost the same number of deliveries as the entire Pakistan team combined for their first essay. He stood like a Rock of Gibraltar on wicket where no one seemed to last more than a session. The Chinnaswamy stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked back, for one last time and the visitors also applauded the colossal effort. It would have been a picturesque end to his immaculate career if he would gone one to score a ton and take India to win, however, even in that 16 run loss, this became an innings of a life-time; an instant classic!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav