India eye Afridi scalp in must-win match against Pakistan
by AFP

Ground:Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Player:RS Dravid, Shahid Afridi, Inzamam-ul-Haq
Event:Pakistan in India 2004/05

DateLine: 16th April 2005


Stand-in India cricket captain Rahul Dravid says his team need to dismiss hard-hitting Shahid Afridi early if they want to square the six-match series against Pakistan here.


The opener smashed a 45-ball century, the second-fastest in one-dayers, in the fifth game at Kanpur on Friday to help Pakistan gain an unbeatable 3-2 lead in the six-match series.


"It will help us if we can get Afridi out early," Dravid said ahead of the high-profile sixth and final match, to be watched by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amid tight security.


"We lost the last match because of Afridi's remarkable knock. That made all the difference. One cannot do anything if somebody bats like Afridi did yesterday," Dravid said before Sunday's match.


The India skipper, who top scored for India with 86 in Kanpur, said he did not believe his team was under pressure even after losing three successive matches.


"It's disappointing to lose three matches in a row, but we've played some good cricket in the series. We now need to have just one good day on the field. We have the potential to level the series," said Dravid.


He said the team was motivated to win the crucial game, which is also John Wright's last as India coach.


"There is always motivation to win whether it is somebody's last match or not. John has been with the team for close to five years. It has been an eventful journey," he said.


"We have valued his contribution. He will be missed not only as a coach but also as a friend."


When asked whether the team would miss the services of regular captain Sourav Ganguly, Dravid said, "People also miss matches because of injuries. There are 15 guys in the team and everybody is keen to do well."


Ganguly is eligible to play after he appealed the six-match ban imposed on him by the International Cricket Council for slow over-rate during the third and fourth matches of the ongoing series.


But the national selectors did not pick out-of-form Ganguly for the last two games.


Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said his team was keen to maintain the winning run and clinch the series.


"Having gained the lead, we now believe that we can win the series. We are in a good position and will try to capitalise on it," said Inzamam, whose team had lost the first two matches before staging a remarkable fightback.


"It's good to see the way we've fought back. Even in the Test series, we came from behind to draw level. The players are confident after winning three consecutive one-dayers."


Pakistan were trailing 1-0 in the three-Test series before bouncing back to win the third and final match at Bangalore to level the series.


"When we came here we were written off, but I am happy we have been able to fight back," said Inzamam.

(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)


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