A cracker of a match

Pakistan’s run-chase began with promise after Salman Butt’s steady shot-making against the opening bowlers, Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh, and Irfan Pathan. Younis Khan was initially reduced to occupying the crease, but opened up in due course. Nandita Sridhar reports.

Sachin Tendulkar’s much-analysed 90s jinx after his dismissal in Mohali might not have done justice to his knock. Till Younis Khan upstaged the great man with an innings of poise under pressure, Tendulkar’s stunning back-foot punches and inside-out boundaries were the day’s batting highlights.

Together with Gautam Gambhir, Tendulkar put on 173 invaluable runs for the second wicket, an advantage that the rest of the batsmen negated by falling in a heap.

The match opened up with some possibilities. India’s win in Guwahati was achieved with a certain amount of ease after Pakistan looked flat. The visitors were expected to lift their game in Mohali — something that was not beyond them.

Pakistan’s run-chase at the PCA Stadium began with promise after Salman Butt’s steady shot-making against the opening bowlers, Zaheer Khan and R .P. Singh, and Irfan Pathan. Younis was initially reduced to occupying the crease, but opened up in due course.

India had left out Murali Kartik for Virender Sehwag, which went on to hurt the team. Sourav Ganguly (9 overs) and Tendulkar (1 over) shared the fifth-bowler’s slot and gave away runs. When it came down to the last few overs, Shahid Afridi was in his elements and took the visitors home.

“If we (Misbah and Younis) had got out in the 35th over or so, Shahid would have been confused. So our focus was to take the game to 42nd-43rd over and leave it to him,” said Younis. The Man of the Match scored heavily in the fine-leg area. “We have reached a stage where even 200 can be scored in the last 20 overs. There are so many new shots, so many techniques. New coaches have come and introduced newer ways of hitting.”

Misbah joined Younis in targeting fine-leg, with the former’s trademark paddle-sweep a source of runs as well as a source of embarrassment after he was bowled while attempting the shot.

Younis swept impeccably, specially against Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh. “I cannot smash sixes at will like Misbah, so I’ve to steal runs,” joked Younis.

Pathan was the most impressive of the left-arm quicks, with a bothersome in-swinger. “We could have bowled a little better,” said Dhoni when asked what went wrong for India. The captain did not agree that India missed a fifth full-time bowler. “When you’re defending 300-plus, around six runs per over off a part-timer is decent. We should have bowled better, and should not have dropped catches.”

The Indian batsmen did not capitalise on the good platform provided by Tendulkar and Gambhir with some overambitious shot selection.

Tendulkar started off a little circumspectly. His shots repeatedly found the fielders, as the pitch assisted the opening bowlers. The imperiousness of his shot-making made up for the initial awkwardness. Sohail Tanvir and Iktikhar Anjum were carted around with ease. Akhtar found it more difficult thereafter, bowling four wides in an over.

Gambhir, who has shown amazing consistency in the last month, played some authoritative strokes. Akhtar and Umar Gul tried intimidating the left-hander, but were found wanting. The pull-shot fetched him boundaries, and he looked set for more till he fell to Gul. Prior to that, Tendulkar was nervy against Gul. He edged one to Kamran Akmal, which ended his brilliant innings. Thousands were forthcoming with the stats. He had been dismissed in the 90s for the 15th time in ODIs. He also became the only player to be dismissed for 99 thrice in ODIs. Blame it on the number 99, a cursed numeral that draws attention to the one missed run, rather than the 98 preceding ones.

Harbhajan Singh entertained with his bat, and took India past 300.

Though India’s total was defendable, the ease with which totals over 300 were being overhauled these days meant that the target of 322 was also gettable by Pakistan.

The win improved Pakistan’s record at Mohali to 2-4. It also helped compensate for Pakistan’s torrid display in the 2006 Champions Trophy, which saw the team being dismissed for 89.

India went down to its neighbours again in Mohali, when it did look like it might pull off a victory. Younis, often accused of not being a good finisher, dedicated his knock to former coach Bob Woolmer, who had urged him to improve his ‘finishing’ record. “This is a special knock. I dedicate it to Bob Woolmer,” he said.

THE SCORES

Second ODI, Punjab C.A. Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh, November 8. Pakistan won by four wickets.

India: S. C. Ganguly b Shoaib Akhtar 6; S. R. Tendulkar c Kamran Akmal b Umar Gul 99; G. Gambhir c Shahid Afridi b Umar Gul 57; V. Sehwag b Shahid Afridi 25; Yuvraj Singh c Umar Gul b Sohail Tanvir 34; M. S. Dhoni c Kamran Akmal b Shoaib Akhtar 4; R. V. Uthappa lbw b Sohail Tanvir 0; I. K. Pathan c Mohammad Yousuf b Shoaib Akhtar 7; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 38; Zaheer Khan (run out) 9; R. P. Singh (not out) 1; Extras (lb 7, w 31, nb 3) 41; Total (for nine wkts. in 50 overs) 321.

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-179, 3-186, 4-239, 5-259, 6-260, 7-266, 8-278, 9-311.

Pakistan bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 10-1-42-3; Umar Gul 10-2-56-2; Sohail Tanvir 10-0-56-2; Iftikhar Anjum 7-0-64-0; Shoaib Malik 3-0-31-0; Shahid Afridi 10-0-65-1.

Pakistan: Salman Butt b Pathan 37; Kamran Akmal c Yuvraj Singh b Singh 13; Younis Khan b Khan 117; Mohammad Yousuf st Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 12; Shoaib Malik c Pathan b Harbhajan Singh 25; Misbah-ul-Haq b Singh 49; Shahid Afridi (not out) 29; Sohail Tanvir (not out) 14; Extras (lb 9, w 16, nb 1) 26; Total (for six wkts. in 49.5 overs) 322.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-81, 3-105, 4-174, 5-276, 6-283.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 10-0-70-1; R. P. Singh 10-0-59-2; Pathan 9.5-0-53-1; Ganguly 9-0-55-0; Harbhajan 10-0-65-2; Tendulkar 1-0-11-0.