1975 saw the World Cup debut and it also saw the debut clash between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a One-Day International. In an era not renowned for quick scoring Zaheer Abbas smashed a scintillating 97 off 89 balls.
Greatest CWC Moment – 97 Days to Go
It was the first Cricket World Cup, the format was new to everyone, and there was plenty of adjusting for all sides including a remarkable innings of 36 not out from Sunil Gavaskar from all 60 overs in the opening game against England. Pakistan and Sri Lanka had lost both their group matches – to Australia and West Indies – and were out of the running for the semi-finals when they met in the last game of the group on June 14, 1975 but Pakistan were determined to show their liking for this new format.
It was expected to be a close contest, with both Pakistan and Sri Lanka losing their first matches by big margins but running their conquerors close in the second games. Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to field that day at Trent Bridge, but little went its way from then on. Sadiq Mohammad (74) and Majid Khan (84) put together 159 runs before Zaheer Abbas walked out to bat.
Abbas, all silken grace and elegance, was a top-drawer Test batsman but had played just four One-Day Internationals prior to this game, though he hadn’t done badly, scoring an unbeaten 57 against England on an earlier occasion and, at the World Cup, getting 31 against West Indies.
But against the Sri Lankan attack of Tony Opatha, Mevan Pieris, Ajith de Silva, and Somachandra de Silva, Abbas went on to play his best innings till then, one that went a long way towards him averaging 47.62 at a strike rate of 84.80 from 62 career ODIs.
Abbas was particularly effective at Cricket World Cups, in his three tournaments he averaged just shy of 50 and still remains one of Pakistan’s highest run scorers in World Cup cricket.
Those weren’t days of hectic scoring but proved to be ahead of the times, and in that match, he was the only batsman from either side to score at over a run a ball – his 97 coming off just 89 deliveries as he entertained the Nottinghamshire crowd.
Abbas went on to be named as Man of the Match and paved the way for legendary Pakistani World Cup batting efforts in tournaments to come in the future. Pakistan’s total of 330 for 6 was the second highest in the entire tournament.
What Happened Next
Abbas’s 97 was the top score in a strong Pakistan batting performance, and with the huge target of 331 staring them in the face, the Sri Lankans wilted. Imran Khan returned superb figures of 3 for 15, while Javed Miandad and Sadiq Mohammad also picked up two wickets apiece, as Sri Lanka was bowled out for 138.
Abbas and Pakistan began to make their mark in the following World Cups with back to Semi-Final appearances in 1979 and 1983 with Abbas to the fore in both tournaments.