Time was when tournaments held at other than the ‘traditional’ venues were viewed condescendingly as feeble attempts to make a show of the ‘global’ appeal of the game of cricket. Sharjah was the first venue to change that attitude, and the aggro that went into marketing the annual event there… tugging on the heartstrings of the sub-continental rivals…… soon made it a part of the mainstream.
Kenya and Bangladesh were soon to make clear their intent, and, in time, gained acceptability. However, somehow, the tournaments held in South East Asia, in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia took a long time in shedding the non-serious tag. This has happened to a great extent, hence the acceptance of invitation to participate from countries whose calendar is already chock-full, despite muted sounds of warning from people who feel that participation in such tournaments ‘exposes’ the players to risks of injury that might render them unavailable for the more serious, scheduled stuff.
Be that as it may, Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa proceeded to Singapore during the hot and humid month of August, to participate in the Godrej-Singapore Challenge.
Pakistan was led by Waqar Younis, New Zealand By Stephen Fleming and South Africa by the still-in-the good books Hansie Cronje. Rain began the proceedings, and reduced the first match between Pakistan and New Zealand to a 25 over slam bang affair………. Allowing batsmen like Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmed and Chris Chairs to put on their dancing shoes and indulge in a characteristic blitzkrieg… albeit short-lived.
New Zealand skipper must have had tremendous confidence in the ability of his bowlers to make short work of the Pakistanis to have put them in to bat upon winning the toss. The score at 1-26 made it seem justified, but then Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar flexed their muscles after the long wait for the match to start, and made up for lost time. By the time both of them departed, the score was 76, in 10 .4 overs….. a good situation for Ijaz Ahmed and Yousuf Youhanna to make their entrance…. And they did that with aplomb and style.