Sunday, February 19, 2006

India won the final match of the recent cricket series. Yuvraj Singh made a unbeaten 107 (93b, 15×4)helping India’s , chasing 287, achieved with 19 deliveries remaining on a good batting pitch. India have clinched the Hutch Cup ODI series 4-1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (77 not out, 56b, 6×4, 4×6) was another important contributor to the Indian Innings.

The Pakistani bowling, apart from a probing spell from paceman Rao Iftekar Anjum, was made to look ordinary. The Pakistani fielding let the side down again. Mohammed Sami lost the ball twice. When on 64, Yuvraj was put down at covers by Shoaib Malik.

India preferred to rest Sachin Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan. Tendulkar carried the drinks, indicating that in this Indian side experience and youth blended into one.

In Tendulkar’s absence, Rahul Dravid opened the innings with Gautam Gambhir.

The left-handed Gambhir sparkled with a few pick-up shots on the leg-side; this also showed Pakistan’s pacemen were not bowling the right line.

Mohammed Asif has not been a big factor in the ODIs since the away going delivery is a lesser weapon in this variety of the game, especially if a side is bowling in the afternoon. It was his two-way movement that made him so dangerous in Tests.

Gambhir once again wasted a start, but the opening pair had, importantly, raised 69. Dravid’s 50 (6×4) might have consumed 82 deliveries, but he made sure that, in the absence of Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar, the Indians had enough wickets in hand before they began the final onslaught. The chase was splendidly orchestrated.

It was Sreesanth who dented Pakistan in the morning after Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar shared the new ball. The Kerala paceman, who is learning fast, cut down on his pace realising that there was not too much assistance for him from the wicket. He struck thrice and Pakistan, from 62 without loss, slumped to 77 for three. In the context of the match, Sreesanth’s spell of 5-1-25-3 was crucial. Both Imran Farhat and Kamran Akmal, after putting together 62, fell to pull shots, and Shoaib Malik steered right into Suresh Raina’s hands at gully. There is fluency about Sreesanth’s run-up and action that is hard to ignore, and he did bowl well at the death, swinging the ball into the right-hander.

And off-spinner Ramesh Powar won a leg-before decision against an ominous looking Inzamam on the sweep; the delivery drifted into the right-hander from outside the off-stump and then straightened.

Pakistan recovered through a strokeful fifth-wicket stand of 95 in 110 balls between Mohammad Yousuf (67, 85b, 6×4) and vice-captain Younis Khan (74 not out, 79b, 3×4, 2×6). Yousuf appeared set for his hundred when he flicked Ajit Agarkar into Zaheer Khan at mid-wicket.

Abdul Razzaq biffed a 15-ball 24 before miscuing a pull of R.P. Singh, but Pakistan lost some momentum towards the end. However, the 18 runs off the last six balls by Zaheer came in handy for the side; Younis twice smote the left-armer over the mid-wicket ropes.

The bowlers, backed by aggressive fielding, had performed a fair job, under the conditions.

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