India implode to big loss
Pakistan 192 (Malik 66) beat India 127 (Afridi 4-20) by 66 runs (D-L method)
Pakistan won this match, but it's just as true that India lost it. Each time India were on top - and there were a few occasions - Pakistan roared back ferociously and pulled off a 66-run win. The target they set for India, 194, was made possible by Shoaib Malik's aggressive 66 and some lusty blows in the final overs. Though Pakistan scored only 192, India were left chasing 194 as three overs were lost midway through the first innings.
The electric start they got off to seemed a distant memory as Pakistan stormed back into the game by dismissing Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in the space of six balls. Both teams were running on adrenaline, never more evident than when Shoaib Akhtar bowled and the openers batted.
In the first three overs, Ganguly and Virender Sehwag scored 30 runs, but from there on, India lost the plot completely. Sehwag gifted away his wicket, and Ganguly did the same after stroking the ball cleanly. Soon after, Dravid was run out by Inzamam-ul-Haq (70 for 3). Only a few hours ago, Pakistan were 58 for 3, but Malik rescued them.
There was no such lifeguard for India. VVS Laxman, who looked likely to take his team close, had his moments, but the day was clearly Pakistan's. Shoaib - who alternated between aiming 150kmph bombs at Laxman's throat and the base of his stumps - looked likely to get him out, but in the end it was Malik who trumped. An offbreak pitched on off, turned square, and Laxman cut it onto his stumps.
Shahid Afridi (4 for 20) and Malik stifled India's scoring opportunities on this pitch where the ball often didn't behave the way it was expected to. But then, at no point did India attempt to break free of Pakistan's hold. Rohan Gavaskar showed initiative, but it wasn't enough. India needed a solid partnership, but never got one.
Pakistan's healthy total was the result of sustained aggression by Malik and Yousuf Youhana (30), and savage hitting by Abdul Razzaq (35 not out) and Moin Khan (27 not out). The knocks came when India had begun to dominate, and they brought runs with an ease that was missing for most of the Indian batting.
The last three overs of the Pakistan innings produced 42 runs, as Moin and Razzaq went for their shots. India didn't know what hit them. Both batsmen scampered with a passion, and every now and then aimed to thrash the ball to the boundary. Razzaq swung two deliveries over the midwicket fence into an ecstatic crowd, and Moin slapped Ajit Agarkar through cover in a stirring display of hard-hitting batting.
Before them, Malik took charge of Pakistan's innings with his fast-paced 66. Mostly, he played with cool composure, and conjured up enviable straight-drives that rocketed to the boundary. His end was ungainly, and came off a hoick that went high but not far, and it resembled the start of his innings, when he tackled Agarkar awkwardly. But those hesitant strokes were right after Agarkar had dismissed Afridi, who played in the only way he knows: smashing a 14-ball 19.
There were few joys for India on this day. Lakshmipathy Balaji was one of them. He claimed the wickets of Inzamam, Yasir Hameed and Younis Khan, and was economical.