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The Wisden Bulletin by Amit Varma
March 19, 2004
Pakistan 247 for 6 (Hameed 98, Razzaq 53*) beat India 244 for 9 (Yuvraj 65, Shabbir 3-33) by 4 wickets
Peshawar produced yet another thrilling contest - and this time, refreshingly, the bowlers set the agenda. First, Pakistan's bowlers restricted India to 244 for 9, which was about 30 runs more than they might have made but for some late-order heroics. Then India's bowlers rose to the occasion, reducing Pakistan to 65 for 4. But a classy 98 from Yasir Hameed, and a composed unbeaten seventh-wicket partnership of 74 between Abdul Razzaq and Moin Khan, took Pakistan home with 16 balls to spare.
In the morning, Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and decided to bowl, a daring decision in a series of such high scores, even if the pitch did look lively, with a fair amount of grass on it. Shabbir Ahmed ripped through the Indian top order, reducing them to 37 for 3, and Pakistan's bowlers kept the momentum until the slog overs, when Yuvraj Singh and Lakshmipathy Balaji, with some spirited strokeplay, lifted the score to a respectable 244. Irfan Pathan then took two early wickets as Pakistan slipped to 65 for 4, but Hameed and Inzamam (28) added 91, and the bowlers could not sustain the early pressure.
The match seemed to have decisively turned India's way when Inzamam was given out in the 32nd over, in fairly ludicrous circumstances. Sachin Tendulkar was bowling his legbreaks: the previous over, Inzamam had failed to read a googly, and was almost bowled. Now he attempted a similar shot, but stepped across to outside the off stump, and was struck on the pads well outside off. Although the wrong'un was turning in sharply, it struck him so far out that it would have missed off stump by a few inches - but Nadeem Ghauri, the former Test spinner turned umpire, gave him out (156 for 5).
The match now revolved around Hameed. He had batted fluently through the mayhem in the early part of the innings, then flourished in Inzamam's company, adding 91 with him in 103 balls. His driving, especially in the arc between backward point and cover, had been breathtaking, and he had batted with assurance and composure. Hameed was in command of the situation at all times during his innings, except once - in the 35th over, with his score 98 and the hint of a goofy smile appearing on his face in anticipation of a century, he drove a sucker ball from Pathan to Yuvraj in the gully.
At 173 for 6, Pakistan were in a spot of bother at 173 for 6, needing 72 from 91 balls. Razzaq and Moin kept their nerve, though, and got there easily in the end. They did not have to resort to slogging, but smashed the occasional bad ball to the boundary while milking the bowling easily. India's bowlers, in the most crucial phase of the match, could not deliver.
Pakistan's bowlers had set up the win earlier, with Shabbir virtually unplayable in his first spell. He began waywardly, with six wides and two no-balls in his first over, but in between there was a peach of a delivery which got rid of Tendulkar for a duck - it pitched on off stump on a good length, jagged away just a bit, enough to get the outside edge on its way through to Moin (8 for 1).
Shabbir, a tall man, was generating significant bounce with his high arm-action, and was getting the ball to cut both ways off the pitch. He removed Virender Sehwag for 13: he played across the line and the ball flew to Shahid Afridi at gully off the back of the bat (30 for 2). VVS Laxman, seemingly clueless about how to play Shabbir when he did not know which way the ball was going to jag, didn't move his feet and was bowled for 2 by a sharp incutter (37 for 3).
Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly added 68, but just as they began to counter-attack, and the momentum began to shift back India's way, Ganguly was out for 39. He opened the face of his bat to guide a ball from Razzaq, which was going across him, down to third man, and only managed to edge it to Moin (105 for 4).
Dravid and Yuvraj batted with resolve for a while, before another soft dismissal brought an end to Dravid's innings, for 33. He tried to sweep Shoaib Malik, who was flighting the ball beautifully, with three fielders positioned just for that shot. The ball looped up after hitting the glove, and although Moin fumbled with it at first he managed to hang on (139 for 5).
Yuvraj did not panic, though, despite wickets falling at the other end. Balaji played some cultured strokes right at the end, the kind one would expect from a top-class top-order batsman, making 21 off 12 balls. Yuvraj stayed till the last over, and without his 65, an innings of class and character, India might well have finished with around 30 runs fewer.
The target was a competitive one on a lively pitch, and India's bowlers began well. Pathan, coming into the side in place of the injured Ashish Nehra, began superbly, getting a lovely shape on the ball, and bowling with hostility and control. Afridi (6) was the first man out, swinging wildly across the line, and getting bowled by an incutter that pitched on a good length (14 for 1). Four overs later, Pathan tempted Yousuf Youhana (2) with a full ball outside off stump, and VVS Laxman held on to the resultant edge easily (29 for 2).
Younis Khan began positively, smashing Pathan out of the attack with three consecutive fours, in the course of a 15-run over. But he was run out for 18 shortly afterwards when he backed up too far as a straight-drive from Hameed was deflected into the stumps by Balaji (55 for 3). Zaheer Khan then got rid of Shoaib Malik (2) with a ball that angled across him and bounced more than he expected: Sehwag held on to an easy slip catch, and Pakistan were 65 for 4.
Hameed and Inzamam then brought Pakistan back into the game, and ensured that they won. While Pakistan's bowlers had managed to keep the pressure on India even after the ball lost its shine and hardness, and the conditions eased, the Indians could not achieve that. In the end, the difference between the sides was the quality of Pakistan's bowling. In a series so far dominated by the bat, this made for a welcome change.
Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.
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