Pakistan win a thriller by D/L rule
Despite being up against a mountain of a total, Pakistan were always in control of their chase, and ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis system. Salman Butt laid the platform with a snazzy hundred while Shoaib Malik played the innings of the match with a stunning 67-ball 90, keeping Pakistan within striking range. India refused to let go, thanks to some inspired fielding and imaginative captaincy, and appeared to have snatched the advantage when Inzamam-ul-Haq was dismissed obstructing the field, but they were eventually thwarted by the murky skies, as the batsmen gladly walked off when given the chance.
India's inability to wrap up the game, despite scoring 328, gives you an indication of the nature of the pitch, the outfield, the smallness of the ground, and the opposition they were up against. Sachin Tendulkar's first hundred since April last year turned out to be the fulcrum around which they built the skyscraper, with Irfan Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni joining in the gush of boundaries. They missed a trick once Tendulkar departed, losing their last six wickets for just 23 runs, stumbling against the persistent Mohammad Asif, and in hindsight they were probably a good 20 runs short.
Tendulkar's was a triumphant effort, going from being an invisible partner at one end to a more dominant performer. In a frenetic opening hour, he looked on as Mohammad Asif moved it around under dim skies; as Pathan struggled before launching into a fierce counterattack; as Dhoni gave a lesson in cover-driving. A little after the half-way stage, he opened out lifting Arshad Khan high over long-on and announced his intent loud and clear. Soon he was in the 80s, with the spinners dismissed to various parts, and soon shifted to a lower gear to complete a memorable hundred, performing the sheet anchors role to the tee and receiving a rousing applause from the packed house.
His innings was surrounded by scorching bursts from three other batsmen: Pathan, who spanked 54 off his 65 runs in boundaries, shredded Umar Gul on his international comeback and set the tone for a rollicking day; Dhoni who cover-drove with punchy audacity, smeared Abdul Razzaq's fullish offerings and stepped up the rate to another zone; and Yuvraj who produced a little cracker to set up the launching pad perfectly. Yet, they stumbled in the last ten overs, managing only 62 and losing wickets in a rush.
Pakistan's response was cool and calculated and at no point did they appear to be off track. Butt, who had a lean time in the Tests, starred with a flourishing century that had the festive crowd in raptures. Relying on his wrists to generate the power, he lashed the bowlers through the V and kept the rate within manageable limits. He didn't try and hammer every ball, intent to just push the singles but surprisingly managed to complete his hundred in just 109 balls.
He was soon joined by the versatile Shoaib Malik, who converted a slow start into a gem of a knock. It looked innocuous for a while - poking, missing, pushing straight to in-fielders - but soon developed into a dangerous innings. The ominous signs were there for all to see - baseball style fours through the covers, cross-batted wallops through midwicket, lofted sixes that clattered into the seats in the press box. To have got 50 off 49 was quite an effort; to have picked up the next 40 off just 18 was exhilarating execution.
Once he fell, with the score on 232 for 3, the game entered a hazy zone - both with the light and the match situation. Shahid Afridi walked in to a overwhelming reception, smashed a six and left; Mohammad Yousuf unfurled a few gorgeous drives and holed out; while Inzamam appeared to have the game in complete control before blocking a throw from Suresh Raina as he tried to get back to the crease. Razzaq fell soon after but by then the light had faded considerably, the nails had all been chewed up and the umpires decided to consult Messers Duckworth and Lewis.
Virender Sehwag c Akmal b Asif 5 (5 for 1)
Undone by a peach of a cutter that bounced a bit and seamed away
Irfan Pathan c Farhat (sub) b Rana 65 (99 for 2)
Top edged a bouncer to short fine leg
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Malik b Asif 68 (225 for 3)
Cut intercepted by a sensational catch at gully, diving to his left and latching onto it with both hands
Yuvraj Singh c Arshad b Razzaq 39 (285 for 4)
Chipped straight to square leg
Sachin Tendulkar lbw b Arshad 100 (305 for 5)
Trapped in front while trying to reverse-sweep
Rahul Dravid lbw Rana 18 (309 for 6)
Tried to flick but missed one that angled in
Ajit Agarkar run-out (Malik) 3 (314 for 7)
Beaten by a fantastic direct hit from midwicket
Zaheer Khan c Yousuf b Rana 5 (321 for 8)
Scooped it straight to mid-off
Murali Kartik lbw b Rana 1 (324 for 9)
Rapped on the pads after missing a straight one
Mohammad Kaif c Butt b Asif 8 (328 all out)
Chipped to square leg; outstanding one-handed, juggled catch at square leg
Kamran Akmal c Gambhir (sub) b Sreesanth 25 (50 for 1)
Fierce cut intercepted at short point
Salman Butt c Dravid b Kartik 101 (201 for 2)
Chipped to cover
Shoaib Malik c Dravid b Zaheer 90 (232 for 3)
Slapped to short midwicket
Shahid Afridi run-out (Kaif) 17 (244 for 4)
Pushed to cover and took off for a perilous single; beaten by a direct hit
Mohammad Yousuf c Zaheer b Agarkar 17 (265 for 5)
Attempted a cross-batted hoick but holed out to mid-on
Inzamam-ul-Haq obstructing the field 16 (289 for 6)
Was outside the crease when he blocked a throw from Suresh Raina from hitting the stumps
Abdul Razzaq c Dhoni b Agarkar 4 (299 for 7)
Edged while attempting an expansive drive
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo