There is so much hype around India – Pakistan clashes that any great feat achieves a kind of aura that it sometimes doesn’t deserve. But if there is one feat that deserves the halo that has existed over it for 32 years it is Javed Miandad’s last ball six to win the final of the Australasia Cup at Sharjah in April 1986. Such is the impact of the stroke that people still discuss it and it has remained the yardstick for triumphant feats ever since. These days in the frenetic pace of the T-20 game such feats may be duplicated even though they remain very rare. But over 30 years ago it was deemed impossible for a batsman to win a match – and the final of a prestigious tournament allied to the added pressure of being an India – Pakistan game – off the last ball by hitting the maximum.

India and Pakistan teams had started playing in Sharjah from the early 80s and in fact India had won an abridged version of the Asia Cup in April 1984 when the only other contestants were Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the teams played each other once. Two years later the organizers expanded the competition to include teams from New Zealand and Australia. But of course the expats from the two countries wanted only an India – Pakistan final and their wish was granted with India defeating New Zealand and Sri Lanka and Pakistan getting the better of New Zealand and Australia.

April 18 dawned bright and clear and the stage seemed set for an engrossing battle between two evenly matched teams. Put in to bat India were given a rollicking start with openers Sunil Gavaskar and Kris Srikkanth putting on 136 runs. Not unexpectedly Srikkanth dominated hitting 75 from 80 balls with eight fours and two sixes. After he left Dilip Vengsarkar joined Gavaskar and the two increased the score by 99 runs during a second wicket association. At 216 for one India were poised for an imposing total but Vengsarkar’s departure for 50 at this stage triggered a collapse. The batsmen went for the big hits and came to grief against Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. The scoring rate too fell below an acceptable level. At the time it did not seem to be a major error and India were quite happy at posting a total of 245 for seven in 50 overs – considered a par score at the time. But after the result one could place things in proper perspective and come to the conclusion that the Indians’ inability to build on the excellent start ultimately cost them the game.

However no one really thought along those lines as India made regular inroads into the Pakistan batting. Mianded entered at 39 for two and at 61 Mohsin Khan was the third batsman to be dismissed. Miandad and Salim Malik added 49 runs for the fourth wicket but by now the asking rate had risen alarmingly. Imran came up with a bit of a surprise promoting Abdul Qadir as a pinch hitter. The move paid off for the leg spinner hit 34 off 39 balls with a four and a six giving the necessary impetus while adding 71 runs for the fifth wicket with Miandad.

The Indians however came back strongly thereafter picking up wickets at regular intervals while not giving much away. Miandad however continued to bat like a champion. There were no big hits but he kept the singles and twos coming. All the same the general opinion at this stage was that he was leaving it too late. By the time he reached his hundred he had hit just two fours and two sixes.

Around this time Kapil Dev made a serious miscalculation. In a tight finish he should have made sure that he bowled the last over given his skill and experience. But the last of his ten overs was the 49th over which meant that the inexperienced Chetan Sharma had to bowl the last over with Pakistan eight down and requiring seven runs for victory.

And what a dramatic over that turned out to be! Wicket keeper Zulqarnain who was batting with Miandad was run out with the score 241. Five runs were needed for victory when last man Tauseef Ahmed joined Miandad who was batting on 110. Miandad met him midway and reportedly told him ''whatever happens, we have to run. Hit or miss, just run’’. Amidst the growing tension and excitement the batsmen scampered through for a single bringing Miandad to the striker’s end.

The score was 242 for nine with one ball remaining. Long consultants followed between Kapil, Chetan and a couple of senior players as to the field settings and what the pint sized fast bowler had to bowl. Miandad also was thinking along the same lines. As he wrote in ''Cutting Edge: My autobiography’’ while describing the scene. ''So now the whole contest had come down to getting four from the last ball. The Indians were together talking strategy. I decided to come up with my own strategy. I was certain Chetan was going to attempt a yorker and aim for my legs. So I decided to stand well forward from the batting crease. My plan was to lean back, make room for myself and give it everything I had.’’

Chetan was understandably nervous but Miandad who was on 110 from 113 deliveries was just going for the slog come what may. By this time he was seeing the ball extremely well and he had the confidence that if the ball came on to the bat he could hit it to the boundary. Though the fielders were spread out he had a mental picture of the field. Still he took another look around counting the fielders one by one. As he described the scene in his autobiography ''I took my time, calmed my nerves, settled into my stance and said a prayer. Poor Chetan Sharma! It was said that he tried for a yorker but the ball slipped out of his hand. Or perhaps the fact that I was standing well forward from the batting crease threw him off his length. Whatever the mysterious origins of that last delivery it ended up being the perfect ball for me and for Pakistan – a full toss at the right height, slightly towards leg and all I had to do was take a swing and it sailed out of the ground. After that it was pandemonium. What a match! It is one of the best memories of my life.’’

With that one shot Miandad became a national hero. Expensive gifts were lavished upon him. More importantly Pakistan who had never really won any tournament of significance began an unbelievable run of success against India that was attributed to the psychological power of THAT six.