A cracker of a match

The eventuality of a bowl-out was something that the Indian team had prepared for. “We practiced it at the nets. The three bowlers who were picked first were the ones with the best score in the nets,” said Dhoni. Nandita Sridhar reports.

“I won’t want to see a cricket match decided on a bowl-out. Teams play really hard to get a result and it should always be decided on the field, whether it’s a win or a loss,” said M. S. Dhoni after India’s 3-0 bowl-out win over Pakistan in the decisive Group ‘D’ match.

In this thriller of a match, Mohammed Asif bowled really well, probably the best seam bowling seen thus far in the tournament. Robin Uthappa showed that a clear head was not out of place in a Twenty20 match and Misbah-ul-Haq played with power and improvisation.

Asif was, rightly so, not too disappointed with the result. “It’s not like we lost the match. The match was a tie. We just lost the bowl-out,” he said. Shoaib Malik, the skipper, echoed his views. “None of my players can be blamed for what happened. We played well and the match was a tie,” he said.

There were a lot of bowling positives for India from the match. Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh’s comebacks worked out to their benefits. Pathan’s angles were a delight to watch and he dismissed Younis Khan with one that cut in perfectly.

Uthappa was calm and clinical in his hitting, and was the architect of India’s decent score after the batsmen were pegged back by Asif. Dhoni was slow to start but played the supporting role well, showing just flashes of the unorthodox hitting that has come to define him.

The eventuality of a bowl-out was something that India had prepared for. “We practiced it at the nets. The three bowlers who were picked first were the ones with the best score in the nets,” said Dhoni.

Pakistan captain Malik was curiously unaware that a bowl-out would be used in the match, after the tie. “When the match ended in a tie, only then we came to know that a bowl-out would happen,” he said. “I just told my bowlers not to take pressure and try and hit the wickets but they were not successful,” he added.

The other surprising decision by Pakistan, was not to send Shahid Afridi higher up the order. Malik defended his decision. “We prefer sending him after the first 12 overs. Anyway, he got out without scoring too many runs, so it doesn’t matter,” he said.

The match was the perfect advertisement for the game’s shortest version. There were sudden momentum shifts, good seam and spin bowling, clean hitting and a thrilling climax.

It would have been better off if the match had ended in a deadlock, instead of subjecting the players to the sort of frivolity that unfolded in the name of a bowl-out.

There was excitement all round, but the satisfaction of a win was missing. As is the case in football shoot-outs, bowl-outs should be used only out of compulsion.

THE SCORES

Group D, Durban, September 14, 2007. Match tied. India won 3-0 in the bowl out.

India: G. Gambhir c & b Asif 0; V. Sehwag b Asif 5; R. Uthappa c Akmal b Tanvir 50; Yuvraj Singh c Malik b Asif 1; D. Karthik b Asif 11; M. Dhoni c Younis Khan b Arafat 33; I. Pathan b Afridi 20; Harbhajan Singh b Afridi 1; A. Agarkar (run out) 14; S. Sreesanth (not out) 1; Extras (lb-2, w-3) 5. Total (for nine wkts., in 20 overs) 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-9, 3-19, 4-36, 5-82, 6-111, 7-123, 8-138, 9-141.

Pakistan bowling: Asif 4-0-18-4; Gul 4-0-27-0; Arafat 4-0-39-1; Tanvir 4-0-18-1; Afridi 4-0-37-2.

Pakistan: S. Butt c Dhoni b Agarkar 16; I. Nazir b R. P. Singh 7; K. Akmal (run out) 15; Younis Khan b Pathan 2; S. Malik c Harbhajan b Pathan 20; Misbah-ul-Haq (run out) 53; S. Afridi c Karthik b Harbhajan 7; Y. Arafat (not out) 12; Extras (lb-3, w-5, nb-1) 9. Total (for seven wkts., in 20 overs) 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-44, 3-47, 4-47, 5-87, 6-103, 7-141.

India bowling: R. P. Singh 4-0-22-1; Sreesanth 4-0-29-0; Agarkar 4-0-35-1; Pathan 4-1-20-2; Harbhajan 4-0-32-1.