Saturday 26 September 2009 

Pakistan Outplay India To Win Group A Thriller

Pakistan Outplay India In Group A Thriller
Pakistan Outplay India In Group A Thriller
© REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA SPORT CRICKET) Picture Supplied by Action Images
 

Pakistan 302-9 (Shoaib Malik 128, Mohammad Yousuf 87) beat
India 248 (Dravid 76, Gambhir 57) by 54 runs

ICC Champions Trophy Group A

When India and Pakistan meet in any form of cricket, it is rare that they put on a poor show and a 54-run for Pakistan in their ICC Champions Trophy Group A match was no exception.

Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf broke their own fourth-wicket partnership record for Pakistan, Malik's century helping Pakistan hit 302 for nine and India were then bowled out for 248 in reply.

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first and the ground-record stand of 206 came after they were reduced to 65 for three and by the time Yousuf was bowled by Ashish Nehra for 87 ion 88 balls, it had become their largest in an ODI against any team.

Malik brought up his seventh ODI century with a cut, and the Indian bowlers must have felt as if they had been bled dry, such was the command with which the pair batted.

At first it was Yousuf who was the more fluent, hitting seven fours in all, as the pair looked to rebuild before Malik raced clear. He played some exquisite shots, mixing defiance, power and precision to create a potent combination that had India floundering.

Imran Nazir (17), Kamran Akmal (19) and Younus Khan (20) all got starts before they were dismissed, Nazir miscuing a pull, Akmal playing on and Younus caught behind, but what they ended up doing was merely setting things up for the next stage of the match.

The Malik-Yousuf show was the sort of entertainment, slowly building to an almost never-ending crescendo, that only 50-over cricket can provide and Shahid Afridi's two-ball innings of four was the sort of entertainment he seems to have a monopoly on providing - one smashed four and then a cut into the gloves of Mahendra Singh Dhoni while Umar Akmal edged Nehra to Dhoni first ball.

They should have left the hitting to Malik, for whom it didn't seem to matter whether he was in a Power Play or not - Pakistan were for the final five overs of the innings, by the way  - such was the ease with which he both pierced the field and powered his way over it.

He received a standing ovation when he departed, holing at long on having hit 16 fours in what was a stunning 126-ball exhibition of limited overs batting.

Wickets tumbled during the death overs but India, whose bowling had been badly exposed throughout, hardly celebrated, thoughts inevitably already having turned to their impending batting effort, and before things fell away badly late on, they were making an incredibly good fist of chasing down more runs than had ever been achieved at the ground before in ODI cricket.

Gautam Gambhir was given a helping hand early in his innings as Mohammad Aamer bowled two no balls in a row, one of which was smashed for six and India were fortunate not only that Pakistan’s bowlers lacked discipline early, but also that one of their openers made a decent score as Sachin Tendulkar made just eight.

The delighted Aamer induced an edge which was safely pouched by Kamran Akmal behind the stumps but free-scoring Gambhir quickly took the initiative. He scored seven fours and another six before a misunderstanding with Rahul Dravid offered Younus a run out chance.

Assessing the situation and realising he had time to steady himself before throwing at the stumps, the captain took dead aim, and hit to leave Gambhir stranded having made 57 in 46 balls.

Without Yuvraj Singh in the line-up, Virat Kohli (16) was in at number four but he was unable to keep up the pace and holed out at long on, Umar Gul taking the catch at the third attempt as Afridi put his batting failure behind him as he bowled a fine spell of leg-spin.

He then struck again to have Dhoni, dancing down the track, trapped in front for three and finished his ten overs conceding just the one boundary in returning two for 39.

However, all the while Dravid batted as Dravid does – calmly, without bluster, happy to rotate the strike and allow others to hit out, as Suresh Raina did in some style when he smashed Gul over his head for a huge six, a shot that Yuvraj, watching on, would have approved of.

No balls and boundaries continued to flow and Dravid promptly reached his 82nd ODI half-century and that was almost immediately followed by the half-century partnership between Dravid and Raina.

After Younus was forced to remove Gul, who had leaked 55 runs in six overs, from the attack, he turned to Shoaib Malik, to which Raina took an immediate liking, placing him for two fours and a six in his first over.

Raina’s assault didn’t last much longer as he was on his way having played an enterprising hand of 46 in just 41 balls when  Saeed Ajmal darted one in to have him trapped in front. Sensing that Yusuf Pathan (5) was showing neither the technique or the application to hang around for long, he brought back Aamer, shifted Misbah-ul-Haq to slip and watched as the edge was well taken low down by the substitute fielder.

India needed 74 for to win in the last 60 balls and they waited one more over to take the batting Power Play with Dravid and Harbhajan Singh at the crease. Rare is the team that can get through a third Power Play without losing a wicket and soon Pakistan were celebrating again, Harbhajan calling Dravid through for a third run that wasn’t there, and then sending him back, leaving him stranded having played a sterling knock of 76 in 103 balls.

Any chances of an Indian victory disappeared with him and Rana Naved (2-48) and Ajmal (2-31) saw off the tail to put Pakistan in pole position to qualify from Group A having picked up two wins from two.

© Cricket World 2009