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Pakistan wilt in face of Indian blitzkrieg

By Nimish Dubey

India added to their tally of amazing run chases when they successfully overtook Pakistan's formidable 293-9 with five wickets and five overs to spare. The result levels the series at 2-2.

While Dravid and Kaif collected the accolades for seeing the team home with a record sixth wicket stand, it was the explosive strokeplay from the batsmen in the beginning of the innings that ensured that the asking rate would never go beyond a manageable limit. As for Pakistan, they seemed so shell-shocked by the hammering handed out to them by the Indian top order that they simply ran out of ideas towards the end.

Contrary to all predictions, the pitch was not a batting paradise and did offer some bounce and turn to the bowlers early on. Pakistan elected to bat but came under the cosh straightaway as Irfan Pathan bowled arguably the best opening spell of the series and even the fielders seemed to be on their toes. Yasir Hameed did look threatening for a while, but he was kept in check by some disciplined bowling; and when he departed with the scorecard reading 89-3, India looked set to restrict the hosts. However, Inzamam-ul-Haq decided to conjure up another century and aided by a strangely defensive Indian attack and some handy contributions from Younis Khan and Razzaq, took Pakistan to a more than handy 293-9.

While that was a challenging target, it seemed that the Indians had been informed that the runs would have to be scored off the first 15 overs. Strokes were played off almost every delivery and while the ball crashed into the boundary time and again, wickets too fell consistently. Captain Sourav Ganguly typified the approach, swinging lustily at everything for a 15-ball 21 that included a six over third man before playing one stroke too many. The run rate was well above that required but the first four batsmen were back in the pavilion by the time the team reached three figures in the 15th over.

It took the arrival of the sedate Rahul Dravid to restore sanity to the proceedings. He played second fiddle to an aggressive Yuvraj and after his departure took charge and mounted a methodical chase with Mohammed Kaif. Although 132 runs were needed for victory when the pair came together, the duo kept the scoreboard ticking effortlessly with singles while punishing anything loose. Thanks to the early burst of scoring, the asking rate never even got close to a run-a-ball (indeed, it rarely got to five an over). Getting wickets was the only way Pakistan could have got back into the match but the bowlers seemed too stunned to deliver and did not help their cause by bowling wildly and conceding a number of extras.

In the end, India got to the target at a canter with five overs to spare. And that sets us up for a terrific climax in the final match, also at Lahore.

Incidentally, the jinx over centuries in India-Pakistan matches continues. For the fourth match on a row, the team for which a player scored a century lost the match! Perhaps players who reach the nineties should be ordered to throw their wickets away!

Before moving on to the scorecard, will someone please tell me how long India will use Rahul Dravid as a wicket-keeper? Once again, he was less than adequate behind the wicket, conceding ten byes and not looking the least comfortable. Do we need an extra batsman so badly that one of our best batsmen needs to don the keeping gloves? Share your thoughts with us at Discussion Forum or write in to

The scoreboard:

Venue: Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
Toss: Pakistan, elected to bat
Umpires: Simon Taufel and Asad Rauf
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle
Result: India won by five wickets
Man of the Match: Inzamam-ul-Haq
Series score: Series is level at 2-2.

Pakistan (293 for 9 wickets in 50 overs)

Y Hameed st Dravid b Kartik 45(68)
(Jumped out to drive, was beaten by the bounce and turn of the delivery)

S Afridi c Y Singh b Pathan 3(10)
(Tried to cut over point, found the fielder)

Y Youhana lbw b Pathan 9(19)
(Caught plumb in front by a delivery that straightened)

Inzamam-ul-Haq b Balaji 123 (121)
(Tried to turn a low full toss to leg, missed it altogether)

Y Khan c Pathan b Kartik 36(48)
(Tried to hit a six over fine leg but found the fielder)

A Razzaq c Kaif b Tendulkar 32(24)
(Tried to loft the ball over mid-on, Kaif took a great diving catch running in from the boundary)

M Khan b Balaji 0(2)
(Missed an inswinging yorker)

S Malik c Kaif b Z Khan 13(8)
(Tried to loft the bowler over mid-off, scooped the ball to the fielder)

S Akhtar b Akhtar 2 (4)
(Missed a full toss, had his wicket rearranged)

M Sami not out 0

S Ahmed not out 0

Extras (10 byes, 9 leg byes, 6 wides, 5 no balls) 30

Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Afridi, 2.2 overs), 2-39 (Youhana, 9 overs), 3-89(Hameed, 21 overs), 4-194(Y Khan, 39 overs), 5- 264(Inzamam, 46.4 overs), 6-264(, 47 overs), 7-283(Razzaq, 48.4 overs), 8- 290(Malik,49.2overs), 9-292 (Akhtar, 49.5 overs)

Batting landmarks:
50 in 12 overs; 100 in 23.5 overs; 150 in 32.2 overs; 200 in 40.2 overs; 250 in 45.5 overs.

Bowling:(read figures as 'overs-maidens-runs-wickets')
I Pathan 10-1-53-2;L Balaji 10-0-64-2;Z Khan 10-0-43-2 ; M Kartik 10-1-48-2 ; S Tendulkar 8-0-48-1; Y Singh 2-0-18-0

India (294 for 5 wickets in 45 overs)

V Sehwag c Y Khan b Sami 26(29)
(Tried to drive a good length delivery, edged it to the slips)

S Tendulkar c M Khan b Akhtar 7(13)
(Got an inside edge to one that nipped back, well taken by the keeper down the legside)

VVS Laxman b Akhtar 20(18)
(Clean bowled by a speedy yorker)

S Ganguly c M Khan b Ganguly 21 (15)
(Edged an outgoing delivery to the keeper)

R Dravid not out 76 (92)

Y Singh c Youhana b Sami 36(35)
(Tried to smash a short ball through mid-wicket but Youhana took a stunning catch diving forward)

M Kaif not out 71(77)

Did not bat: Z Khan, I Pathan, M Kartik, L Balaji

Extras (9 leg byes, 19 wides, 9 no balls) 37

Fall of wickets: 1-34 (Tendulkar, 4.1 overs), 2-69 (Laxman, 8.4 overs), 3-75 (Sehwag, 10 overs), 4-94 (Ganguly, 14 overs), 5-162(Yuvraj, 23.4 overs)

Batting landmarks:
50 in 6.3 overs; 100 in 14.3 overs; 150 in 22.1 overs; 200 in 30.1 overs; 250 in 37.2 overs.

Bowling:(read figures as 'overs-maidens-runs-wickets')
S Akhtar 9-1-63-2 ;M Sami 10-0-51-2; S Ahmed 7-0-62-0; A Razzaq 7-0-42-1; S Malik 7-0-38-0; S Afridi 5-0-30-0

Highlights: Pakistan innings

* This match was not played on the pitch originally designed for it. The groundsmen discovered that the pitch prepared for the match was, in fact, breaking up and so the parallel strip was chosen for the match.
* Sourav Ganguly must be wondering why he bothers to turn up for the toss. Inzamam-ul-Haq has won the toss each time in the series. In fact, if memory serves me right, Ganguly has never won a toss against Pakistan. That would be a total of seven tosses lost. Perhaps India could ask someone else to go out for the spin of the coin.
* Pakistan made no changes to the team that won at Peshawar, but India shocked some observers by dropping the impressive Ramesh Powar for left-arm spinner Murali Kartik. Powar must be mystified at this treatment as he has fielded brilliantly, bowled handily and batted gustily so far in the series. Of course, he could take some advice from Rohan Gavaskar who was similarly discarded after a decent stint in the VB Series!
* Irfan Pathan's delight over getting an early breakthrough was tempered by a warning from umpire Asad Rauf from running on to the pitch in the fifth over of the match. He put it behind him and dismissed Youhana a few overs later.
* Yasir Hameed's innings was played in two gears. He raced to 36 off 38 deliveries but was then totally tied up by the Indian bowlers, getting a mere 9 runs off the next 30 balls. Little surprise that the frustration got to him and he went wandering down the wicket to Murali Kartik and was stumped.
* Younis Khan may not be getting huge scores (he has not even got a fifty in the series yet) but he has been a key performer for Pakistan. At Karachi, he stuck around while Inzamam went berserk; at Rawalpindi, he helped Pakistan recover when India seemed set to restrict them to less than 300; at Peshawar, he was looking dangerous before being run out; and today, he helped get the Pakistan innings up and running along with his captain after India had struck a few early blows.
* Although Inzamam-ul-Haq averages over 50 at Lahore, this was his first hundred on the ground. It was also his second hundred in the series, after that amazing knock at Karachi.
* Sourav Ganguly had an embarrassing moment in the 46th over when Irfan Pathan was no-balled because the Indian captain had forgot to keep the requisite number of fielders within the circle.
* India once again missed a fifth specialist bowler. Although the opening bowlers reduced Pakistan to 89-3, the visitors simply did not have the firepower to keep the pressure on. Tendulkar and Yuvraj bowled the fifth bowler's ten overs but ended up conceding 66 runs for just one wicket. The result was a carbon copy of what happened at Peshawar - Pakistan were able to stage a recovery after having most of the top order shot out cheaply.
* Rahul Dravid had a less than memorable time behind the stumps, conceding ten byes and also missing a few routine gatherings. How long will the Indian team persist in making an all-rounder out of one of the world's best batsmen?!

Highlights: Indian innings

* Add another one to India's list of amazing run chases. Not too many teams have successfully chased 290-plus under lights!
* The result means that both teams go into the final match at Lahore on Wednesday tied at 2-2. It could not have been scripted better.
* You might be tired of reading this but the Pakistan bowlers were once again generous with 9 no balls and 19 wides. I guess this is their way of contributing to the atmosphere of 'friendship' that surrounds this series.
* Shabbir Ahmed seems to believe in conceding lots of runs in his opening over. He conceded 16 runs in his opening over at Peshawar and replicated the feat today, combining loose deliveries with a few wides and no-balls.
* And talking of no-balls, VVS Laxman would not have bothered the scorers if Shabbir had not stepped over the line while bowling a delivery that Laxman edged to Inzamam at gully. The Pakistani skipper was livid. The fact that Laxman hit four of the next six deliveries from Shabbir for four did nothing to improve his temper.
* While every one (including me) had talked about the fact that the dew on the playing area would be a major factor, we totally forgot to mention the hordes of insects that literally pestered the batsmen and fielders once the floodlights came on. Rahul Dravid got one in his eye and play was held up while he was attended to.
*  There was a moment of drama when Shoaib Akhtar seemed to collapse after bowling the first ball of the 21st over. Fortunately, all it took was a banana to get the Rawalpindi Express back on the rails! So distracted were the umpires by the incident that they allowed Akhtar to bowl another over even though he had been off the field for a while!
* Some of Inzamam-ul-Haq's tactics were bewildering. With India closing in on a win, he brought Shoaib Akhtar back into the attack but did not even give him a fielder at slip. It was only after a few edges flew through the vacant slip area that Younis Khan was placed there. Of course, the horse had already bolted by that time.
* The sixth wicket stand of 132 between Dravid and Kaif is the highest sixth wicket stand for India, bettering the 127 run stand between Azharuddin and Jadeja.
* This was Mohammed Kaif's first fifty in quite a while (I cannot remember when he last got a half-century). As far as India were concerned, it could not have come at a better time.
* This was Pakistan's first defeat in a day-night match at Lahore after seven successive wins. They will be hoping to get back to winning ways on Wednesday.

Turning point of the match:

For me, the turning point of the match came when Rahul Dravid came out to bat. Until his arrival, India had been scoring rapidly but losing wickets. Had Pakistan dismissed Dravid, the match would have been all but over but he stuck in there and brilliantly moderated India's chase to level the series.

Our man of the match:

He may have finished on the losing side but Inzamam-ul-Haq is our man of the match for his second century of the series. It was a typical Inzamam innings combining brute force with silky elegance. Most importantly, his innings came at a juncture when it seemed that India would restrict Pakistan to a low total.

Lighter moments of the match:

1. Watching a tailender bat is always fun. So when Shoaib Akhtar came out to bat in the 48th over, one expected anything but routine. And sure enough Akhtar obliged. He swung lustily at the first delivery he faced, missed it altogether and saw four runs added to the total as wicket-keeper Rahul Dravid missed it as well. The bowler, Sachin Tendulkar, was enraged but Akhtar had the grace to look sheepish as he managed a guilty giggle.

2. Mohammed Kaif was literally left with half a bat when one of his drives off Shabbir Ahmed knocked a huge chunk of wood off the willow. Incidentally the shot went for four. Kaif changed bats and promptly hit the next delivery for another boundary.

It is the most intense and bitter rivalry in cricket and one about which almost everyone has an opinion. Get your point of view online and join what promises to be a great debate at our discussion board: Discussion Forum

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