On May 31, 1999, Bangladesh pulled off an incredible triumph over Pakistan in a World Cup match at Northampton. The joyous scenes after the match still give an adrenaline rush to Bangladesh cricket fans, even today.
Bangladesh had only beaten Scotland in their first outing in the biggest stage of the game. On the other hand, Pakistan beat West Indies and Australia playing their best cricket in the preliminary round. They were unbeaten as well.
In the six matches between Bangladesh and Pakistan preceding that 1999 World Cup encounter, the latter had won by margins of seven wickets, 173 runs, six wickets, 109 runs, nine wickets, and 152 runs.
So, when the World Cup debutants took on a team containing the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Ijaz Ahmed to name a few greats, there was only result expected.
The scoreboard at the end of 94.3 overs told a different tale; improbable, if you may call it. The decibel levels rose significantly as the Bangladesh tigers were taking rapid strides towards an unexpected outcome.
It turned out to be one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
The Tigers surprised themselves, most certainly, as they played their best cricket of the season at a time when their application for Test match status was going to be a major talking point at the International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting one month later. The performance on May 31, 1999, was the epochal moment in their pursuit of getting the coveted Test status.
In the four previous attempts in the competition, debutants Bangladesh had failed to post a total in excess of 200, although they had successfully defended a total of 185 against Scotland.
After winning the toss, Wasim Akram surprisingly fielded first. Pakistan's modus-operandi all through the competition was posting the runs on the board and defending them. They altered their pattern probably to get themselves out of the comfort zone. But were Pakistan taking this game as a practice game? Or were they going to steamroll their erstwhile province by playing ruthless cricket?
Batting first, Bangladesh posted a decent total of 223/9, riding mainly on a 68-run opening partnership between the two Hossains – Mehrab and Shahriar.
On a day of firsts, that was, in fact, the first fifty partnership for Bangladesh against Pakistan in ODIs.
"Once we scored 223, we knew it would not be easy for Pakistan to chase down that target on that wicket," man-of-the-match Khaled Mahmud said recently about that win.
"We knew we had to get early wickets. That's what we did. I got three wickets and once we took their first five wickets, we knew we would win."
A target of 224 was hardly daunting for Pakistan. Sensible batting would have ensured a Pakistan victory. But a leading edge of Shahid Afridi in the first over brought about his downfall.
Khaled Mahmud, a medium pacer with a unique action that was not easy to forget for fans of the game in the 1990s, started with the brand new white ball and got it to swing. His military medium pace was causing Pakistan all sorts of problems as they were reduced to 42/5 in the 13th over.
At this point, the Bangladeshi fans were dancing in the aisles with their tiger stuffed toys, while some even came dressed up as tigers. The mood was one of jubilation and not even a fighting partnership between Azhar Mahmood and Wasim Akram could dampen their spirits.
For their part, Bangladesh bowlers and fielders kept their heads as Pakistan, not for the first time and not for the last time, collapsed spectacularly. There would be three run-outs in the match and the last one was when Saqlain was caught short, with the crowd rushing onto the field even before the third umpire's decision could be made.
"I'm happy we lost to our brothers. I think we should praise their win – they'll be ready for Test status in another year or so," Akram said infamously after the match, even if he might have meant no harm.
Unfortunately, the match has always been viewed with suspicion ever since, with suggestions that it was fixed to help Bangladesh attain Test status. Pakistan's approach to the match certainly did not help quell the rumours, either.
But try doubting this win to a nation that celebrated the win by flooding the streets and welcoming the players like they were national heroes. Once that red light came on at the end for Saqlain's run-out, there was absolute joy in the Bangladesh dressing room with players jumping up and down like kids in a candy store.
For them, none of it would matter but for the fact that it was the greatest day of their lives.