Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Azharuddin leads India to 4th successive Asia Cup title
April 14, 1995 - This was the third consecutive time that India and Sri Lanka were contesting against each other in the final of the Asia Cup. While India were the favourites to win another title, Azhar's men were not unaware of the Lankans' ability to cause an upset.
In the 1995 Asia Cup, India had qualified for the final once again. They had beaten Bangladesh by a hefty margin in the opening encounter of the tournament. Despite losing to Pakistan by 97 runs, India beat Sri Lanka convincingly to set up a final clash against the island nation.
The 1995 Asia Cup was a round-robin tournament where each team played the other once, and the top two teams qualifying for a place in the final. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all had four points at the end of the round-robin stage, but India and Sri Lanka qualified for the final on the basis of better run-rates.The was the third consecutive time that India and Sri Lanka were contesting against each other in the final of the Asia Cup. Both of the previous times, it was the Men in Blue who had the last laugh. While India were the favourites to win another title, Azhar's men were not unaware of the Lankans' ability to cause an upset.
Four years ago, Azhar (54*) had taken India to another such win over Sri Lanka in the final of the 1990-91 Asia Cup, with support from Sachin Tendulkar (53), Sanjay Manjrekar (75*) and Kapil Dev took (4/31).
By the time this tournament was played, Indian cricket had bid adieu to the Class of 80s. Tendulkar was the batting mainstay while Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Venkatesh Prasad had taken over the bowling reins - a core unit that served India till the early 2000s.
Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin called right at the toss and elected to field first. Sri Lanka had gotten off to a troubled start as India reduced them to 89/4. But Asanka Gurusinha’s fighting knock of 85 runs off 122 deliveries helped Sri Lanka to a fighting total of 230/7.
The target was not tough. But run chases are quite tricky, especially when it is a final. Sri Lanka were banking on its bowlers to deliver after Gurusinha’s fight with the bat. They made early inroads into the Indian innings having reduced India to 58/2 with Prabhakar dismissed for 9 and Tendulkar for a promising knock of 41.
However, once Sidhu and Azharuddin joined hands in the middle, they made a complete mockery of the Sri Lankan bowling attack. Both batsmen went on the offensive and counter-attacked the bowlers in style. They stitched together a partnership of 175 runs for the third wicket and chased down the target with ease. India thus won by 8 wickets with 49 deliveries to spare.
Sidhu and Azharuddin remained unbeaten on 84 and 90 respectively as the country of a billion once again celebrated their Asia Cup title for the third consecutive and fourth time overall. Their 175-run stand remains the 4th highest partnership by India in the Asia Cup.
Sachin Tendulkar was adjudged the Player of the Tournament for scoring 205 runs in four games, which also included a century in the group stages.
Skipper Azhar, for his match-winning knock, received the Man of the match in the final. Apart from the trophy and the winners' cheque, Azhar also received a steel sword in a gold-plated scabbard - a fitting gift for his majestic innings.
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