LAHORE    -    The fans have voted Pakistan’s 12-run win over India at Chennai in 1999 as the greatest Test match to date in the country’s 432-Test history. The thrilling Test was played from 28 to 31 January with Pakistan coming back from behind to win back-to-back (Bangalore 1987 and Chennai 1999) Tests on the Indian soil.

In the voting period, which ran from 26 to 29 July, 15,847 fans casted their votes on the PCB’s official Facebook page and Twitter handle. With 65 per cent votes, 1999 Chennai Test was an outright winner, while 1987 Bangalore Test, 1954 The Oval Test and 1994 Karachi Test received 15 per cent, 11 per cent and 10 per cent votes, respectively. The poll received nearly 109,000 impressions on Twitter and achieved a reach of 1.02 million on Facebook. Furthermore, it also remained one of the most engaging social media activity in the region during the four-day period.

The PCB had given an opportunity to its fans and followers to vote for Pakistan’s greatest Test as part of its initiative to celebrate the launch of the World Test Championship, which will take place in England today (Monday). The challenging and difficult task of selecting four Tests was carried out by an independent and highly respected panel of cricket experts and historians, namely Benedict Bermange, Mazher Arshad, Dr Nauman Niaz, Osman Samiuddin and Qamar Ahmed. The four Tests chosen by the independent panel were: 1954 v England, The Oval, 1987 v India, Bangalore, 1994 v Australia, Karachi, 1999 v India, Chennai.

Wasim Akram, the captain of that Pakistan side, while reminiscing the Chennai Test said: “If all those who watched it live can still get goosebumps, just imagine the emotions, reactions and feelings of those who were directly involved in that match. We talk a lot about pressure cricket and a match of fluctuating fortunes, well, if anyone wants to know what pressure is and how to handle and deliver in it, then Chennai Test is the benchmark.

“I was involved in three of the four Tests that were shortlisted and cannot agree more with the fans’ choice of the 1999 Chennai Test as Pakistan’s greatest Test to date. “For me, three things from the Chennai Test will always remain fresh: Shahid Afridi’s sublime 141 in the second innings, Saqlain Mushtaq’s five-for in both the innings and Chennai crowd’s standing ovation. Let’s not forget this was our first Test in India since the 1987 Bangalore Test victory and we had arrived in Chennai unsure of the public response. “So, our 12-run victory was also Chennai crowd’s victory and the fans’ decision is a testament to that,” he said.

“Pakistan has featured in some of the most fascinating and memorable Tests in their proud history. I feel humbled that the Test I was involved in as my country’s captain has been voted by the fans as the greatest Test for which I am grateful. Somehow, the fans have today made me feel as if my career has been completed,” Wasim added.

Shahid Afridi, who scored a total of 152 runs in the match and took three wickets in the first innings, said: “Now, that the fans have voted the 1999 Chennai Test as Pakistan’s greatest Test, it is a perfect icing on the cake. I feel honoured to have been part of that mercurial side that had all the grace, class, talent and above all, ability to win from any stage.

“Those close to that team know my selection was not a straightforward one despite taking five wickets in an innings in my previous Test. As such, to get a chance to play in the Chennai Test and then contribute in the team’s success was something I was always very proud of.

“Even when Sachin Tendulkar and Nayan Mongia had stitched a 136-run partnership to edge India closer to victory, we had remained confident and upbeat. In my career, I have seen only a few times the same on-field atmosphere, hunger for victory and the players’ body language like in that Test.

“Cricket is all about pressure, but the 1999 Chennai Test exposed the Pakistan cricket team to a unique and different type of pressure that somehow encouraged the players to bring out their best as their motivation and determination to win continued to increase with every session.”

“Chennai Test was the birth of Saqlain Mushtaq, the magician and inventor of doosra. He bowled tireless with his guile and craft, kept the India batmen at bay. History will remember his second innings dismissal of Tendulkar, caught by Wasim Akram at covers, as one of the priceless beauties of Test cricket.

“Two hundred and thirty-six Test cricketers have represented Pakistan in 432 Tests. Each player is special and each Test important to us. In this background, I want to thank all the fans who have voted for the 11 who figured in the Chennai Test of 1999. This honour and respect means a lot to all of us.” The fans widely discussed the poll and the local media also joined them in celebrating the country’s rich cricketing legacy.

Pakistan Cricket Board Managing Director Wasim Khan said: “I am delighted that the fans got an opportunity to remember and cherish the epic feats of our team. I congratulate the stars of the 1999 team. That the victory is still being celebrated after more than two decades underscores its magnificence and what it means to the fans of Pakistan cricket. “I also want to thank the media for extending their support to us by providing air-time and column inches to this poll and turning it into a massive success.

 “Pakistan is a proud Test nation and we are pleased to join the ICC in the launch of the prestigious ICC World Test Championship. I am hopeful that by providing context to every Test match around the world, we will see an increase in the fan base for the format. “Pakistan will continue to play its role in the development of the game.

I expect a record viewership for the final of the ICC World Test Championship in June 2021 which, hopefully, Pakistan will be a part of.”

SCORES IN BRIEF

PAKISTAN: 238 all out (Moin Khan 60, Mohammd Yousuf 53, Wasim Akram 38, Saeed Anwar 24; Anil Kumble 6-70, Javagal Srinath 3-63) and 286 all out (Shahid Afridi 141, Inzamam-ul-Haq 51, Saleem Malik 32, Mohammad Yousuf 26; Venkatesh Prasad 6-33, Sachin Tendulkar 2-35)

INDIA: 254 all out (Saurav Ganguly 54, Rahul Dravid 53, Sadagoppan Ramesh 43; Saqlain Mushtaq 5-94, Shahid Afridi 3-31, Wasim Akram 2-60) and 258 all out (Sachin Tendulkar 136, Nayan Mongia 52; Saqlain Mushtaq 5-93, Wasim Akram 3-80, Waqar Younis 2-26)

Player of the match – Sachin Tendulkar (India)