One Butt not enough

The Pakistan wickets fell even as Salman Butt scored uninterrupted, till his dismissal. It was an innings of poise and solidity. Nandita Sridhar reports.

Ninety one balls were all it took for India to surge ahead. Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni showed controlled, purposeful aggression while imposing themselves on spinners Abdur Rehman and Shoaib Malik. Both the batsmen were watchful in the beginning, with the pitch showing signs of disintegration. They followed it up with four sixes in two overs and the Pakistanis, too, put up a mediocre display on the field.

Yuvraj was all class, timing the ball perfectly, with an elegant bat-swing. A slog-sweep six off Rehman was followed by a powerful strike over long-on.

Dhoni kept the sixes coming while taking on his counterpart. The ball was sent scorching over the sight-screen, after which a quick swing cleared long-on.

The runs came at an unexpected pace. India had lost it a bit after the dismissals of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The compensatory period was much needed.

Malik had used up most of his pace-bowling overs upfront and had to settle for himself, Rehman and an off-colour Shahid Afridi, who was hit for a six as well.

Sohail Tanvir was the pick of the bowlers. He bowled a good length and managed a fair amount of swing. Tendulkar poked at one that teased him while swinging away. Kamran Akmal, who had dropped Ganguly off the very first ball of the match, pulled off a stunning one-handed catch to redeem himself.

Ganguly spent a mixed time in the middle. He managed a straight forceful six off Gul, but most of his sojourn was spent edging and poking. He looked hesitant in the middle and showed ominous signs of getting out. A Tanvir delivery that pitched on off castled the left-hander.

The dismissals of Dhoni and Yuvraj came a little too late for Pakistan. The bowling lacked that extra bit and Irfan Pathan scored easily at the end.

Pakistan sent in Salman Butt and Shahid Afridi to start the chase. Butt had notched up all his three centuries against India and Afridi had a 46-ball 102 behind him at Kanpur in the past.

Afridi’s characteristic boundaries were followed by a dismissal that was equally in character. Butt, on his part, was imposing. The footwork and line judgement were the standout features of his batting. The offside brilliance was there and he proved dependable off the pads as well.

The pitch seemed unreadable for both captains. The decadent bounce proved hazardous for the Pakistani chase. Younis Khan offered no shot to an R. P. Singh in-swinger and was bowled in an embarrassing fashion for someone of his class.

“This was not the normal Kanpur wicket — a flat wicket throughout — and we knew that it would disintegrate and help the spinners,” said the Indian captain Dhoni.

Some mindless running further hampered the chase. Mohammad Yousuf’s push to backward point found the wrong fielder. Yuvraj’s brilliant throw effected the run-out that set off the slide. The wickets fell even as Butt scored uninterrupted, till his dismissal. It was an innings of poise and solidity. His knock came in for praise from Dhoni. “Butt’s innings was superb. He was batting at a time when Harbhajan was bowling well to the left-handers. He carried the responsibility on his shoulders.”

Dhoni was also happy with Harbhajan, who bowled an excellent spell. He benefited from a turning track, though the same could not be said of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik. A little more was expected from Kartik against the Pakistani right-handers.

“The way Harbhajan and Yuvi (Yuvraj) bowled was superb. Zak (Zaheer) also bowled well, giving hardly anything in his seven overs. At any situation I never felt the match was slipping away from us,” said Dhoni.

Dhoni also lauded Yuvraj for his match-winning innings. “It really helps when I play with Yuvi. If I did not get a boundary for a couple of overs, he got that boundary. So we were really never under pressure. The shots he’s playing now and the class he’s showing is really amazing and it is a pleasure to have a batsman like him in the side. He takes the responsibility and gets the team through.”

Malik rued the dropped chances that hurt his team, specially the chance offered by Yuvraj. “We should have restricted them to 250. A score like 294 was always going to be hard,” said the Pakistan captain. “Butt’s innings was superb. We needed someone else to bat with him and score around 80 runs. That would have helped.”

THE SCORES

Third ODI, Green Park, Kanpur, November 11. India won by 46 runs.

India: S. Ganguly b Tanvir 39; S. Tendulkar c Akmal b Tanvir 29; G. Gambhir b Rehman 25; Yuvraj Singh c Misbah-ul-Haq b Rehman 77; M. Dhoni b Akhtar 49; R. Uthappa b Gul 19; I. Pathan (not out) 17; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 10; Extras (b-6, lb-3, w-17, nb-3) 29. Total (for six wkts., in 50 overs) 294.

Fall of wickets: 1-68, 2-82, 3-129, 4-229, 5-260, 6-265.

Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 10-1-40-1; Gul 10-0-70-1; Tanvir 10-1-26-2; Afridi 7-0-57-0; Malik 6-1-34-0; Rehman 7-0-58-2.

Pakistan: S. Butt lbw b Harbhajan 129; S. Afridi b Pathan 12; Younis Khan b R. P. Singh 21; Md. Yousuf (run out) 16; S. Malik lbw b Yuvraj 12; Misbah-ul-Haq b Kartik 38; K. Akmal c Harbhajan b R. P. Singh 2; S. Tanvir (run out) 0; A. Rehman b R. P. Singh 2; S. Akhtar c (sub) b Zaheer 1; U. Gul (not out) 2; Extras (lb-1, w-12) 13. Total (in 47.2 overs) 248.

Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-72, 3-104, 4-134, 5-214, 6-226, 7-231, 8-244, 9-246.

India bowling: R. P. Singh 8-1-62-3; Pathan 10-0-61-1; Zaheer 7.2-2-25-1; Harbhajan 10-0-32-1; Kartik 6-0-38-1; Yuvraj 5-0-18-1; Tendulkar 1-0-11-0.