Professional Pakistan got the better of India
by Rohit Sakunia

Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Player:Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Saeed Ajmal, G Gambhir, SK Raina, RS Dravid
Event:ICC Champions Trophy 2009/10

DateLine: 26th September 2009


Like all India-Pakistan matches, this one also had many a moments to cherish. Another tipsy-turvy game where at least on a couple of occasions the match looked to change diammetrically on its head. In the end, Pakistani players coming out of the holy month of Ramzan, looked more hungry as they defeated India by 54 runs.


India though had many a moments during both the innings. First while they were bowling, they had Pakistan on the mat struggling at 65 for 3 in fifteen overs. They let the hook and the arch-rivals ended up with 302 on the board. Then during their batting, Gambhir and Raina's flamboyance at least twice threatened to take the game away from Pakistan but on both the occasions destiny had other plans.


Finally India fell short and Pakistan is now just formalities away from a semifinal birth.


Chasing a humoungous 303 to win, India wanted a good start from the openers. This wasn't to happen though as Mohammad Aamer's wish of scalping the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar turned true. The master fell to a supreme outswinger. He nicked it and Kamran Akmal, did the needful behind the wickets. Gautam Gambhir on the other end though looked he wasn't out of action for even a moment.


He signalled his intent from the word go and looked as if he wants to finish the game in a hurry. Beautifully crafted and powerpacked boundaries all around the park became a regularity for a while. He was helped by the couple of no balls gifted by Pakistan pacers, both of which he neatly sent out of the ground. He brought up his 50 in 37 deliveries and his aggression looked written all over his face and shots. There was no way Paksitan bowlers looked like disturbing him even a tad bit. But then destiny turned devilish and in a bad mix up with Dravid, Gambhir was stranted, only to be found inches away from the ground. It has to be mentioned here that had Gambhir tried to get in, he could just have made it but he did otherwise. Pakistan team was elated and it was none other than their skipper who had hit the timber.


Suddenly the game changed. A track which was supposed to turn damp because of dew at night, started to help the spinners as Afridi and Saeed Ajmal turned the ball square. India though never lost a lot on run-rate, as new man Virat Kohli also showed urgency at least when it came to running between the wickets. He alongside Dravid, added 37 off 47 balls but then in an act of defiance tried to turn an overnight hero for his country. They say that when the real hero is on the other side, one should just play the support cast well. Virat though thought otherwise and this haste led to his downfall. He picked Umar Gul at long-off and Afridi tasted blood.


In walked MS Dhoni and it looked as if its time for consolidation. The skipper though was ruffled in his brief stay at the wicket. The ball was turning and to counter it, Dhoni started to walk down the track to Afridi time and again. On one such occasion, he was found plumb in front of the wickets, at least a couple of meters from the stumps. India at this stage looked down and out. With wickets falling and a dropping run-rate since Gambhir's dismissal, even Dravid at one end was looking not enough.


This game though was not over by any means. With Dravid playing the sheet anchor, Raina walked in and started to slam-bang the bowling attack. He hit each bowler for runs and again India was back on track. In his stay, the Southpaw hit Shoaib Malik for 14 runs in an over and with this if not anything, the required ruun-rate was back on track. The duo added 72 runs in no time and just when it looked time for both to just turn the strike around, a blemish of a decision send Raina back. Ajmal threw a fast one to which it was difficult to say, what made contact first, the bat or the pad but it was nonetheless a tough decision and should have gone the batsman's way.


Yusuf Pathan as usual looked to start in his own ruthless manner. He hardly succeeded and Mohammad Aamer got the better of him, having him caught at slip for only 5. In his 10 ball stay, not even once he looked like playing for the sake of settling down and his wicket is another testimonial of abject carelessness when what was required was a little partnership before the final assault.


After Yousuf's wicket, Dravid also fell to a suicidal third run call. After this Pakistan finished formalities in a jiffy as India fell way short by a good margin of 54 runs.


Earlier, Pakistan captain Younis Khan won a huge toss and elected to bat on a pitch which looked a nightmare for fast bowlers. Pakistan openers started with a blitz as the Indian weaklink, their bowling looked exposed so early in the tournament already. RP Singh looked tremendously short of confidence and was picked up for 12 runs in his very first over. The onslaught continued for a while till Nehra finally was rewarded after some good bowling. A short ball outside the off was hoicked by Imran Nazir only to be caught by Harbhajan Singh at mid-on.


From there on Indian seamers made a comeback of sorts as Pakistan skittled to 65 for three in fifteen overs from 51 for one in seven. In fact such was the curbing effect that from over number eight to 15, Pakistan could not manage a single boundary. If someone thought India has staged a comeback, he was wrong because all this while two of the most experienced campaigners for Pakistan were busy resurrecting an innings in their own style. Both Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf rebuilt and proved that the old formula of doubling the 30-over score still holds good if a team has wickets in hand. Pakistan were 131 for 3 after 30 overs and they managed 302. It had to be exceptional batting on a challenging day and both Yousuf and Malik were upto it.


This was probably the best middle over batting seen in the last decade or so. The way the two batsmen at crease negated a top quality off-spinner and milked singles and two's all around the park was a delight to the yes.


Harbhajan Singh looked out of ideas as he was picked for some beautifully glided late cuts. It should be noted that Harbhajan does not reflect a great record against Pakistan. He continued the poor show as now he has 10 wickets in 15 ODIs against the arch-rivals, at an average of 71.1 and a strike-rate of 87.6, some numbers that definitely call for improvement.


Malik though continued what he does best. India seem to be one of his favourite sides and he today if anything improved his record against them. Out of seven centuries that the right-hander possesses in his CV, four have come against India and his average of 52.24 against India is way higher than his 35.27 overall.


The duo though started off very slowly and Malik, especially, looked like he doesn't want to score. He was once 3 off 16, then 9 off 30, and then 34 off 69, a strike rate of even less than 50. Yousuf, on the other hand was very good in picking up singles and rotating the strike.


Then the intent to score took upperhand. A couple of late cuts in the overs between 30-35 signalled that both the pros were ready for the push. Yousuf started the carnage and Malik followed suit guiding Harbhajan to the third-man boundary.


All of a sudden, the Indian bowlers looked rattled, being carted all over the park. Malik suddenly upped the ante and the bowling attack was caught unawares. Ishant Sharma was brought back and was hit for three boundaries in one over. Then it was RP's turn, who went for back-to-back boundaries. Malik by now had started to look absolutely unstoppable and was making a mockery of the bowling attack of the world's number one ODI side.


The duo went from strength to strength as they added 200 runs for the fourth wicket. Finally Yousuf fell missing a well-deserved century by 13 runs. Nehra was again the wicket-taker for India as he rattled his middle stump. Malik, on the other end was exploding all ends. He it seemed was waiting for the final powerplay to switch to the fifth gear and the call for it signalled another flourish.


Pakistan in total managed 41 in the last powerplay and placed history against India by posting them 302 to chase, 5 more than ever on this ground. Eventually India fell 54 short and history survived to live another day.


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