A truly memorable occasion

Junaid Khan rocked the Indian top-order with his pace and swing.-

Nasir Jamshed’s fine hundred earned Pakistan the victory. The crowd, although disappointed with the home team’s performance, didn’t hold back in its liberal applause for the Pakistanis. By Arun Venugopal.

There were quite a few things about the first ODI between India and Pakistan in Chennai that made the contest a truly memorable occasion. It wasn’t an all-time classic, not the gorgeous explosion of flair that characterises Indo-Pak games. Yet, the scrappiness of the match wasn’t a distraction when it came to appreciating its varied components.

The waves of fervour gathered briskly as cricketing action between the two sides returned to the city after 13 years. Tickets for the match were most sought after despite morose clouds and continual rainfall threatening to douse fans’ enthusiasm. Security was naturally top-priority and a number of personnel were pressed into service.

Skipper M.S. Dhoni stood tall amidst the ruins.-V. GANESAN

On the eve of the game, a visit to the hotel in which the captains of either team were addressing the media reiterated the high-profile nature of the series. Any potential embarrassment had to be quelled. This writer was welcomed at the entrance by a conscientious sniffer dog appearing eager to grab a ‘bite.’ Navigating through the layers of security, you arrived at a packed hall teeming with cameras and flashbulbs. M. S. Dhoni and Misbah-ul-Haq, gladly, have a sense of humour. When asked about the two-bouncer rule, Dhoni replied: “Sir, hum to abhi ek bhi use nahi karte hai to do ka kya achaar dalenge.” (at the moment we are not even using one, where will we bowl two).

Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore also pointed out that Dhoni wasn’t the only one who was ‘captain cool.’ “He’s pretty much captain cool as well, isn’t he?” he said of Misbah, whose boyish visage is quite at odds with his 38 summers. There were whispers of a possible washout following a steady dose of rain on match eve. To the delight of everyone, the game began with only an hour’s delay. Very soon, Indian fans — with their team tottering at 29 for five — were left wondering why the rain beat a retreat.

Nasir Jamshed's splendid century took Pakistan home.-K. PICHUMANI

Opting to bowl first, Pakistan’s left-arm pace duo — Junaid Khan and the seven-footer Mohammad Irfan — was all over India. For some, the combined after-effects of consuming excessive T20 cricket and the slow-scoring on show made coming to terms with the 50-over game slightly difficult. Dhoni, for all the criticism of his ingenious, home-spun technique, looked to be perfectly equipped for a restorative job. He dabbed, scraped, and, over the course of the innings, transformed himself into the audacious shot-making machine that he once was, scoring a terrific hundred.

The media enclosure was a happy place with plenty of activity: there was no shortage of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ Pakistan’s chase in the afternoon coincided with the arrival of former Pakistan batsman Sadiq Mohammad to the press box. The 67-year-old turned out to be a brilliant raconteur, discussing with enthusiasm the different phases of cricket. He noted that cricket had become a lot more aggressive over time. “Things have changed a lot. There is a lot more media attention these days as well. In my days, there was excitement but there were no hugs and kisses when a wicket fell,” laughed Mohammad, who had come to India as a goodwill ambassador of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

As Mohammad left, the focus shifted back to the match. R. Ashwin claimed Younis Khan’s low catch and umpire Billy Bowden asked for a replay. When Bowden raised his famous ‘crooked’ finger, Suresh Raina mimicked it. Nasir Jamshed’s fine hundred earned his team the victory. The crowd, although disappointed with the home team’s performance, didn’t hold back in its liberal applause for the Pakistanis.

THE SCORES

First ODI — India vs. Pakistan, Chennai. Pakistan won by six wickets.

India: G. Gambhir b Irfan 8, V. Sehwag b Junaid 4, V. Kohli b Junaid 0, Yuvraj b Junaid 2, R. Sharma c Hafeez b Junaid 4, S. Raina b Hafeez 43, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 113, R. Ashwin (not out) 31, Extras (lb-11, w-9, nb-2) 22. Total: (for 6 wkts in 50 overs) 227.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-17, 3-19, 4-20, 5-29, 6-102.

Pakistan bowling: Irfan 9-2-58-1, Junaid 9-1-43-4, Gul 8-0-38-0, Ajmal 10-1-42-0, Hafeez 10-2-26-1, Malik 4-0-9-0.

Pakistan: M. Hafeez b B. Kumar 0, N. Jamshed (not out) 101, Azhar Ali c R. Sharma b B. Kumar 9, Younis Khan c Ashwin b Dinda 58, Misbah-ul-Haq b Ishant 16, S. Malik (not out) 34, Extras (lb-6, w-3, nb-1) 10. Total: (for 4 wkts; 48.1 overs) 228.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-21, 3-133, 4-172.

India bowling: B. Kumar 9-3-27-2, Ishant 10-0-39-1, Dinda 9.1-0-45-1, Ashwin 10-0-34-0, Yuvraj 5-0-33-0, Raina 2.1-0-23-0, Kohli 2.5-0-21-0.