Thursday 26 June 2008 

Sehwag Century Sees Indian 20-Year Wait End In Karachi

A typically belligerent Virender Sehwag century helped India register their first win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup for 20 years in Karachi as they chased down 300 with 47 balls to spare to win by six wickets.

Shoaib Malik's 125, his first century as captain, underpinned Pakistan's score of 299 for four with Younus Khan also contributing 59 but Sehwag smashed 119 from 95 balls and Raina 84 from 69 to leave the away side taking the two points on offer for the win, closing on 301 for four.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, openers Butt and Malik put on 90 before Butt was brilliantly caught by Raina at short midwicket off of Piyush Chawla for 35 to put their side in a controlling position which was reinforced by a century partnership between Malik and Younus Khan and some late blows from Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq.

At first fast bowlers RP Singh, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma all kept things tight, with only four boundaries coming, three of them from Butt, who excels against India, in the first 12 overs.

However, after a circumspect start, the pair began to expand their game and put pressure back on to India, Malik in particular looking impressive with a crushing back foot drive off of Praveen Kumar and some late deflections to the third man boundary seeing him overtake Butt, who might have been run out early on.

The introduction of spinner Piyush Chawla was a signal for Malik to attack, and he hit two fours to reach his half-century and take Pakistan on to 87 without loss after 20 overs before Chawla, once again hit for four by Malik, got his reward with the wicket of Butt.

Malik responded by smashing Yusuf Pathan for a six as he and Younus plundered runs at an excellent strike rate and India struggled to contain the pair, with boundaries backed up with good running and a sound understanding between the pair.

Malik's century was his sixth in One Day Internationals, his third in the Asia Cup and his third against India.

Younus's delightful innings was full of deft sweeps, both conventional and reverse and the stand between the pair set Pakistan up for a late innings charge with plenty of batsmen still to come.

Malik was twice dropped off of Yusuf Pathan and looked to take full advantage despite suffering from cramp in the oppressive Karachi heat while Younus another player who saves his best performances for the Indians, reached his half-century soon after.

The cramps eventually became too much for Shoaib, and he retired on 125 from 119 balls leaving the middle to a standing ovation from a packed crowd. Younus Khan was soon joining him in the dressing room as India finally held a high catch off of Pathan, Raina the fielder sending Younus on his way for 59.

Mohammad Yousuf played some aggressive strokes before being run out by RP Singh for 30 from just 20 deliveries to maintain the home side's momentum late on while Shahid Afridi (nine) once again failed to deliver, but Misbah's unbeaten 31 kept things going.

India dropped four catches in all and only RP Singh, who took one for 44 from ten overs, bowled with credit, but on a batsman-friendly pitch, a target of 300 never looked beyond India, save for early on when they lost Gautam Gambhir (nine) to an outstanding catch by Misbah-ul-Haq in the gully. The ball appeared to have passed the fielder but he instinctively put out a hand and the ball stuck.

Rao Iftikhar was the bowler, having to come on in place of Umar Gul who left the field injured. With Shoiab Malik also off the field injured early on, Pakistan's bowling resources were severely stretched, and India took full advantage.

Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina cashed in on Pakistan's decreased firepower, making good use of the Power Play restrictions with a flurry of boundaries, Sehwag almost hitting a six over cover off of Sohail Tanvir.

It didn't take him long to find his range, twice putting Shahid Afridi into the stands while Raina was not to be undone, dancing down the pitch to dish out the same treatment to Iftikhar.

He then went on to make his half-century from 40 balls, another man carrying over his form from the IPL into the international arena, following up yesterday's 66-ball century against Hong Kong with another stylish knock.

Sehwag reached his half-century in 46 balls, and then smashed Afridi for another six to which Raina responded by hitting Fawad Alam over long on.

Shoaib Malik turned to the occasional off-spin of Salman Butt and Sehwag simply helped himself to two sixes over midwicket, and not small ones at that as he raced into the 90s, looking set to win the personal race to three figures between himself and Raina.

Sehwag won the race easily, securing his ninth ODI century in the process with a drive down the ground before their partnership of 198 was ended when Raina chipped Iftikhar to Fawad at short cover, the diminutive left-hander on his way for 84 from 69 deliveries, having struck ten fours and three sixes.

Sehwag's dashing innings came to an end when he was well caught at long off by Younus Khan off of Afridi. Sehwag had hit 12 fours and five sixes with India all but in sight of victory by the time he left the middle.

Yuvraj Singh peppered the midwicket boundary with three mighty sixes and one four, the latter stroke bringing up a half-century partnership between himself and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as India made it look desperately easy late on.

Yuvraj fell in sight of both victory and a half-century, Salman Butt taking the catch to give Sohail Tanvir a wicket as Yuvraj went for 48.

Dhoni won the game by smashing Younus for a six to remain unbeaten on 26 to confirm what was their quickest ever chase of 300.

Both sides have already qualified for the Super Four stage of the competition and will meet again in the second stage of the tournament.

John Pennington
© Cricket World 2008