On this day 25 years ago, the biggest neutral contest between India and Pakistan – Sahara Cup – kick-started in Canada, Toronto. Sahara Cup was a five-match annual bilateral ODI series between India and Pakistan. Surprisingly, only 750 spectators turned up at the Toronto Cricket Club for the match. The first edition of the series was played in 1996 and it ended in 1998 in the aftermath of the political tension between India and Pakistan.
All five games of this tournament were played in broad daylight and the Pakistan team won the first edition of this series by 3-2. The first game of this series was played on this very day in 1996.
Interestingly, it was also the first official one-dayer played in Canada. The match was reduced to 33-over per side due to rain and the much talked about encounter took place at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.
Batting first, Pakistan managed to score just 170 runs for the loss of nine wickets. Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar starred for his side with the bat; he scored a blistering 46 runs off 34 balls with the help of seven boundaries. Anwar’s strike rate in this game was above 130, which was a really big deal in the 1990s and early 2000s before the introduction of T20Is.
Anwar missed out on a well-deserved half-century as he was removed from the attack by Indian spin wizard Anil Kumble when he was four runs shy of the milestone.
Other than Anwar, Ijaz Ahmed was the only Pakistan batsman, who was able to counter Indian bowlers. He made a valuable contribution of 35 runs off 50 balls and Saqlain Mushtaq in the end scored a quickfire 22 to give his side a flying finish.
Chasing 171 runs to win, India comfortably won the match by six wickets and 19 balls to spare. For India, Sachin Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 89 runs off 89 balls with the help of nine fours and three sixes.
Tendulkar was also adjudged Player of the Match for his brilliant show with the bat.