Butt and Naved script a crushing win
When Inzamam-ul-Haq finally won the toss, a balance was restored. Batting first on the flat tracks prepared this series has been distinctly advantageous, and so it proved today as Pakistan put up a mammoth score of 319 for 9 and then pressured the Indian batsmen into self-destruction. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan played a major hand to claim six wickets as India were dismissed for 213.
Naved and Mohammad Sami found more swing and bounce than the Indians and were pacy enough to be effective on the batting surface. A few of these wickets came after the bowlers unnerved the batsmen with their bounce and movement, but India's batsmen contrived to get themselves out too. No Indian batsman, barring Rahul Dravid - until he was surprised by one and got out - Mohammad Kaif and Irfan Pathan appeared comfortable. The rest simply fell away. And this had much to do with Salman Butt.
A cool hundred by Butt, his second of the tour, led Pakistan to a large total for a change. His innings contained delightful drives and wristy flicks and stolen runs, but above all, it was a knock that allowed others to flourish. Around him, Shahid Afridi could play like himself and get out and Pakistan did not feel the pinch. Then Shoaib Malik could start unsteadily while Butt, muttering to himself as the bowler delivered, kept the run-rate up with calm, thoughtful cricket. After Malik left he presented Inzamam-ul-Haq the strike as time for quick runs came, and then ran hard with Yousuf Youhana, ultimately sacrificing his wicket for someone fresher and more suited to the demands of slog overs. It was a nurturing innings.
India too required a singular presence around whom a chase could be built, but Pathan, who scored 64, came too late, for the chase had all but ended within ten overs, when Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were dismissed. Dravid and Yuvraj Singh left soon after. Respectability, lost before the tenth over, was left for Kaif and the rest to regain. India duly succumbed to a defeat by 106 runs.
For fifty overs the Indian attack experienced the unfamiliar sensation of bowling first on a dead track this series. Pathan and Harbhajan Singh were expensive; the part-timers had little chance. Between them, they conceded 208 in 30 overs. Pathan, lacking the swing and control that he once employed regularly, was ordered out of the attack after bowling two beamers. The over-rate was so slow, barely 15 minutes seperated the innings. It was that kind of day for India.
Then Inzamam and Youhana together added 66 off 48 deliveries. A mishit flew off Inzamam's bat over long off for six, Youhana swept and reverse-swept and nudged and did things that mess the mind of bowlers and fielders. Pakistan made it to 319 for 9, a score that could have been bigger had Zaheer Khan not bowled tightly towards the end.
With three games to go, the series is yet open-ended. But judging by the toss-winning captain's relief, too much has rested on one coin.
Afridi c Dravid b Nehra 17 (31 for 1) Drove at a ball slanted across and edged to the sole slip, who caught it at head height.
Shoaib c Tendulkar b Sehwag 75 (176 for 2) Hit a short ball straight to the fielder just inside the midwicket boundary.
Inzamam c Pathan b Nehra 23 (219 for 3) Attempted to turn a ball to leg, and top-edged it to short mid-on.
Butt run out Dhoni/Zaheer 101 (239 for 4) Missed a ball in the rush for runs, found Yousuf Youhana beside him and sacrificed his own wicket.
Youhana c Dravid b Harbhajan 43 (287 for 5) Smacked a ball to square leg.
Razzaq st Dhoni b Yuvraj 18 (291 for 6) Came down the track and missed one that bounced.
Younis c Dravid b Khan 9 (308 for 7) Top-edged a turn to leg gully.
Sami run out Nehra 6 (316 for 8) Played one down the track but couldn't make the crease in time. A simple run out for the bowler.
Naved c Mongia (sub) b Nehra 1 (317 for 9) Top-edge taken at square leg.
Sehwag c Afridi b Naved 2 (6 for 1) Flayed at one, caught at point.
Tendulkar c Younis b Sami 6 (11 for 2) Edged one in the corridor to second slip.
Ganguly c Younis b Naved 4 (20 for 3) Edged a delivery angled across to second slip
Dhoni c Akmal b Naved 28 (54 for 4) Top-edged a pull that was well taken by the wicketkeeper
Yuvraj c Akmal b Naved 1 (66 for 5) Drove and got an edge
Dravid c Younis b Sami 28 (82 for 6) Got a snorter from Mohammad Sami that reared up at his bat handle from just short of a length.
Kaif c Younis b Kaneria 32 (143 for 7)
Drove on the up into the off and was well caught in the infield.
Harbhajan b Malik 2 (152 for 8)
Played across one that turned a long way and brushed the leg stump.
Pathan c Akmal b Naved 64 (204 for 9)
A strange one. Pathan played at one going wide outside leg and hit it with the back of his bat. It looped up to the wicketkeeper.
Nehra b Naved 3 (213)
Clean bowled by a perfect yorker.
Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Cricinfo.