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The Wisden Bulletin by Amit Varma
April 16, 2004
India 600 (Dravid 270) beat Pakistan 224 and 245 (Kamal 60*, Kumble 4-47) by an innings and 131 runs
India sealed a historic series victory in Pakistan, their first overseas series win in more than a decade, as they bowled Pakistan out for 245 in their second innings, to win by an innings and 131 runs. The day was full of drama, as the Indians, full of nervous energy, dropped catch after catch in the morning, six of them in just the first 40 minutes. But the Indian bowlers kept their patience, and continued bowling with accuracy and fire to take the eight wickets that they needed to achieve a milestone that this Indian team has come so agonisingly close to in the past, only to falter on the last lap. As the last wicket fell, the Indians rose as one in cathartic delight, purged, like the rest of their nation, of the sense of incompleteness that had lingered for so long.
Lakshmipathy Balaji was the pick of the bowlers in the morning, and the chief architect of India's performance today. Four of the six dropped catches were off his bowling (click here*, or scroll down, for the full list), but he kept charging in, getting significant movement both in the air and off the pitch, but controlling his swing much better than he had on the first day.
Balaji bowled a beauty to dismiss Kamran Akmal, a ball that shaped out and jagged back in to remove the off stump (64 for 3). A short while later, he had Inzamam-ul-Haq dropped off his bowling with a ball that shaped in and moved out, which accurately indicates his variation - he threw in the odd slower one as well - and why he perturbed the batsmen so much.
Yasir Hameed was dropped twice after that, and Inzamam, once, but the drops did not prove crucial. Hameed fell to the first catch of the morning, a masterful diving effort by Parthiv Patel. Ashish Nehra bowled a short ball that moved away outside leg stump, and Hameed just managed to flick it fine off his hips - too fine, as Parthiv caught it beautifully, smiling in celebration while still in mid-air, before the ball had even settled into his gloves, so confident was he (90 for 4). Inzamam was out an over later, edging an awayswinger from Balaji to Patel, and Pakistan were 94 for 5.
Yousuf Youhana was also reprieved soon after he came in, but settled in after that to play an aggressive innings. He was lucky twice, when he was adjudged not out off two lbw appeals, from Balaji and Nehra, that Hawk-Eye showed were just about out, but Rudi Koertzen gave the benefit of the doubt, understandably, to the batsman. Youhana and Asim Kamal, who kept wincing because of the elbow injury he carried into the innings, batted positively, driving and cutting fluently.
Balaji went for a lot of runs, but he wasn't wayward, as his figures might suggest. He was just pitching it up a lot, giving himself a chance to get wickets, and Pakistan's batsmen were happy to drive when the length was right. Some of the drops off him also went for runs, but the runs, at this stage, hardly mattered.
Youhana, as he had done at Multan, appeared well set for yet another soft blitzkrieg in a losing cause, using his feet to step out boldly, hitting lofted drives, blasting his way to 48 off 61 balls. But Anil Kumble deceived him into giving a caught-and-bowled chance, and held on to it (175 for 6). Mohammad Sami then edged a Kumble legspinner to Rahul Dravid at first slip, off the first ball he faced, and Kumble was on a hat-trick.
Shoaib Akhtar evaded it with an edged slog to the third-man boundary, followed by two slogs to the long-off boundary for four, and one to midwicket for six. He smashed 28 off 14 before, inevitably, mis-hitting an attempted slog off Kumble to Ashish Nehra at midwicket (221 for 8).
Kamal, stroking the ball beautifully, resisted until the end with 60 not out, an innings built on character rather than panic, but Fazl-e-Akbar and Danish Kaneria gave him little support. Akbar (12) slogged a bit before mis-hitting a wild slog off Kumble to Pathan at point (244 for 9), and Kaneria was out c Ganguly b Tendulkar shortly after that. Glancing admiringly towards Dravid, the fat lady sang, and Hindustani Classical filled the air.
Before this series, India had played 20 Tests in Pakistan, losing five and winning none. Winning two Tests and the series marks a seminal shift, one that feels quite natural in the progression that this Indian side has taken in the last few years. Under Sourav Ganguly, India won overseas Tests in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England and Australia, but failed to win any of those series. The last one, against Australia, showed that they were capable of being the best Test side in the world, and they moved a little bit more towards fruition in this series. It also revived a remarkable rivalry - the last six Tests between India and Pakistan have produced results, and have been filled with passion and aggression, and that augurs well for the future of Test cricket.
Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.
*The six dropped catches in the first 40 minutes: 1] Kamran Akmal edged an awaygoing ball from Lakshmipathy Balaji, and a diving VVS Laxman at second slip just failed to hold on. 2] Akmal again, easy bat-pad chance off Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh at short leg fumbled the easiest of chances. 3] Yasir Hameed square-drove Balaji uppishly, and a diving Sachin Tendulkar, at point, just failed to hold on. 4] Inzamam-ul-Haq edged a ball from Balaji that shaped in and moved away, Rahul Dravid dropped a low chance at first slip. 5] Yasir Hameed square-drove again, impetuous stroke, Anil Kumble at gully reached for a high chance and could only tip it on. 6] Yousuf Youhana slashed Balaji uppishly, Yuvraj at point, diving, just got a hand to it.(Back to article)
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