Seamers lead Asia XI to win
Asia XI roared back into the Afro-Asia Cup with a 17-run win that squared the series 1-1, with the decider to be played tomorrow. Workmanlike innings from two artistic batsmen, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, took the Asia XI to 268 - a very healthy score on a ground where the average first-innings score is only 224. The Africa XI batsmen then struggled against quality fast bowling under lights, lost early wickets, and eventually slumped to 250 all out.
The pitch at Kingsmead, Durban, wore such a green look with all the live grass on it that Shaun Pollock conceded that he would have liked to bowl first anyway, when Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and chose to bat. But the pitch did nothing out of the ordinary - barring some spongy bounce early on - and batsmen who spent some time getting their eye in managed to score fluently.
The long-awaited Shahid Afridi-Virender Sehwag opening combination lasted only minutes, as Afridi was trapped lbw on the second ball he faced, having clouted the first one over extra-cover for six (6 for 1). But this did nothing to deter the Asians. Sangakkara brought a confident gait and fluency to proceedings, using his nimble hands to deflect the ball into the gaps and pick up boundaries. His short-arm jabs through the on-side, followed by whipping cuts through cover-point, made fielding placements a tricky task. His slashed cut for six off Monde Zondeki, bowling into a stiff breeze, signalled the end of any doubts about the live grass on the pitch making life difficult for the batsmen.
After Virender Sehwag was dismissed on 38, Sangakkara had country-colleague Jayawardene for company, and the ball kept booming off his bat. Anything short was dispatched with disdain, a careful roll of the wrists keeping the ball either down or in the gaps, giving fielders no chance. Jayawardene began slowly, but Sangakkara continued as he had begun, and brought up his 21st one-day half-century in the 20th over.
Soon after, Sangakkara (61) presented Odoyo with his second wicket, top-edging a pull straight up in the air for Mark Boucher to back-peddle and catch (120 for 3). As one Sri Lankan departed, another took on the responsibility of shepherding the innings. Jayawardene initially played and missed, feeling for the ball outside the off stump, but soon settled down to play with characteristic touch and finesse. You barely noticed it, but Jayawardene had accumulated a half-century, bringing it up with a rare flourish - a sweetly timed pulled six off Zondeki. Almost immediately after this boundary, he was back in the hutch, stumped by Boucher off Odoyo for 52 (225 for 5). Youhana made his presence felt with 42 valuable runs in the middle order, and Inzamam chipped in with 31 in the end, taking the total to 267.
In the end 267 proved plenty. Shoaib Akhtar turned the heat on with a hostile opening spell that had both openers jumping. Bowling with a strong wind on his back, he regularly hurried the ball through, beating both Boeta Dippenaar and Mark Boucher repeatedly. Boucher's frenzied innings came to an end in the 4th over when he drove Zaheer straight to Mahela Jayawardene at short cover (23 or 1). Dippenaar then flashed at Shoaib and was well caught by Jayawardene diving to his right at slip (50 for 2).
Jacques Rudolph, caught in two minds between attacking and defending, could make only 10 before he drove hard at Ashish Nehra and only managed an edge to Kumar Sangakkara (71 for 3). Almost immediately after Ashwell Prince, the in-form batsman for the Africans, was brilliantly run out by Abdul Razzaq fielding in his follow-through (72 for 4).
From here on it was extremely hard for the African XI, and only some blistering strokeplay from Justin Kemp (38) and Steve Tikolo kept them in the hunt. Kemp scorched the ball back down the ground, and it took a brilliant piece of wicketkeeping from Sangakkara to dismiss him. A mix-up between Tikolo and Kemp found both batsmen stranded in the middle of the pitch. Sangakkara, who could have whipped the bails of at his end, instead threw the ball across to Muralitharan, who effected the run out at the bowler's end (154 for 6). Tikolo then swept, drove and cut with gay abandon, and enjoyed being dropped by Sehwag at midwicket enough to rattle up a run-a-ball 43, before his luck ran dry (192 for 7). Thereafter, the going got too tough, and innings folded on 250.
Shahid Afridi lbw b Streak 6 (6 for 1)
Trapped in front by a full, straight ball.
Virender Sehwag c Boucher b Odoyo 38 (98 for 2)
Tickled an outswinger to the keeper.
Kumar Sangakkara c Boucher b Odoyo 61 (120 for 3)
Top-edged a pull.
Yousuf Youhana c Pollock b Kemp 42 (199 for 4)
Holed out to mid-off.
Mahela Jayawardene st Boucher b Odoyo 52 (225 for 5)
Overbalanced playing a booming drive.
Abdul Razzaq run out (de Villiers) 0 (225 for 6)
Mix-up with Inzamam, Razzaq tripped and fell halfway down the pitch.
Shoaib Akhtar c Boucher b Streak 6 (235 for 7)
Big cut shot played and edged to the keeper.
Mark Boucher c Jayawardene b Zaheer 16 (23 for 1)
Drove straight to short cover.
Boeta Dippenaar c Jayawardene b Shoaib 23 (50 for 2)
Well-caught diving low and to the right at lone slip.
Jacques Rudolph c Sangakkara b Nehra 10 (71 for 3)
Drove hard at one that swung away.
Ashwell Prince run out (Razzaq) 0 (72 for 4)
Razzaq fielded brilliantly in his follow-through and threw the stumps down.
AB de Villiers run out (Sangakkara) 39 (118 for 5)
Justin Kemp run out (Sangakkara/Muralitharan) 38 (154 for 6)
Both batsmen mid-pitch after mix-up. Quick thinking from Sangakkara to relay the ball to the bowler and effect the run out at that end.
Steve Tikolo c Sehwag b Muralitharan 43 (192 for 7)
Holed out to midwicket.
Nicky Boje c Jayawardene b Shoaib 1 (193 for 8)
Catching practice for the lone slip fielder.
Shaun Pollock b Zaheer 29 (235 for 9)
Cleaned up by a yorker.
Heath Streak c Jayawardene b Zaheer 28 (250 for 10)
Holed out to long-off.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo