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The Wisden Verdict by Rahul Bhattacharya
March 13, 2004
Evidently the hype, for once, has been worth it. On a day of measureless runs and emotions, India and Pakistan can be proud to have played an astonishing match before a deafening audience who can be no less proud of the manner in which they maintained the good name of their city. Everybody won, and this historic tour is now really with us.
This was a match, and an atmosphere, comparable to the last meeting between these teams, at Centurion in last year's World Cup. All through the day it rained a thumping noise ("I couldn't hear my team-mates," said Ganguly), and in the final hour it seemed as if the stadium might be jolted clean out of its foundations. Hereabouts the Pakistanis were batting out of their skins, moving towards victory in a game they never ought to have won from 34 for 2 chasing 350. Then, in the middle of the delirium of the last 20 minutes, came two moments of utter silence.
First Mohammad Kaif took an extraordinary catch, a gem of gems, running in some 30 yards from long-off to long-on, and diving right in front of the nose of Hemang Badani, averting the collision but still grabbing the ball while fully airborne. The second moment came as Ashish Nehra sent down a full-toss from the last ball of his superb final over - a boundary to win off the last ball, Pakistan v India, we've been there before - but Moin Khan lobbed a catch and there it ended.
Both times the crowd recovered, and applause followed. Karachi had a point to prove. They have felt angry and belittled that they were not granted a Test, and the image of an impatient and rough city was hardly helped by a riot during the ticket sales last week.
But today was impeccably organised. Instructions were passed via newspapers for non-ticket holders not to come to the ground, and layouts of parking arrangements for every stand were provided. One of the handful of flags that made it to the inside was half-Indian, half-Pakistani, and had on it the message: "One blood."
The cricket intelligence from the day was that no target is safe any more. This match still enthralled because the total was sufficiently larger than your regular mammoth one-day score as to introduce an element of awe. The audacity of a team almost hunting down 350 we haven't been accustomed to. As yet. Where will it all end?
It's not as if the bowlers were helpless. Here was a flat track, of course, but how on earth the Pakistani attack will explain their 20 no-balls and 10 wides to Javed Miandad only they know. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohamnmad Sami: what a sight they made today, flapping in and bowling at 150kph each, but how wasted their energies were. The rookie Rana Naved-ul-Hasan even managed to concede 17 runs off what amounted to one legal delivery. As for India, in two days their bowlers have been unable to defend 335 against Pakistan's second-string, and have almost failed to defend 349 against their first team. Nothing more need be said.
In a host of iridescent innings, Inzamam's shone the brightest. There was little hope when he walked in, yet, once he got going in his beguiling, languorous way, victory seemed almost certain. Composed and adventurous, careful and dismissive, he played an innings that should be remembered forever. The pity is that in what could turn out to be a festival of large scores, it might be forgotten before the month is out.
Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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