Yuvraj and Sehwag ease India to victory
India 266 for 3 (Yuvraj 82*, Sehwag 67, Dravid 56) beat Pakistan 265 (Malik 95, Younis 81, Pathan 3-43) by 7 wickets
A scorching 105-run opening stand between Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, and a glorious unbeaten 82 from Yuvraj Singh were instrumental in India's emphatic seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the second one-day international at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium. Having bowled Pakistan out for 265 in the final over, thanks to some disciplined bowling, sharp fielding and less-than-perfect shot selection, India chased down the target with 41 deliveries to spare.
Shoaib Malik's 110-ball 95 and a pugnacious 81 from Younis Khan had revived the Pakistan innings after Irfan Pathan's early blows, but the eventual target proved to be no challenge at all once Sehwag and Tendulkar set about an attack that was missing the pace and menace of Shoaib Akhtar. Yuvraj piloted the pursuit in its latter stages, playing some dazzling strokes in an 89-ball knock. He struck eight fours, and two sixes over long-on off Malik as Pakistan's hopes evaporated in the afternoon heat and sunshine.
Rahul Dravid was also on top of his game, picking off 56 from just 61 balls before a sharp return catch from Malik sent him back when within sight of victory. The real damage though had been done at the top, with Sehwag - so out of sorts after that 254 in the first Test - careering to 67 from 60 balls before a remarkable throw from Umar Gul shattered the stumps from deep fine leg.
After a sedate start, Sehwag exploded to life in the fifth over of the innings, carving Naved-ul-Hasan over point for six, and then thumping him for three fours in an over that cost 22 runs. Emboldened by that little burst, he then concentrated his attention on Mohammad Asif, so impressive in the Test at Karachi and the opening ODI at Peshawar. A clip through midwicket, and a superb square-drive followed, as India reached 64 in the first 10 overs.
Tendulkar had been content to tick along at the other end, but with the bowling and fielding fraying at the edges, he too joined in, with a meaty off-drive off Asif and three crisp fours against the errant Gul. The run-rate climbed to seven, and it was looking all too easy when Tendulkar, who had eased to a run-a-ball 42, tried to be too cute with an Abdul Razzaq delivery that deviated a touch off the seam.
When Sehwag soon followed, Pakistan might have glimpsed an opening. And had Razzaq held on to a difficult caught-and-bowled chance at short square leg after Yuvraj miscued a pull horribly, it might well have been game on. Having had their wake-up call though, and with Inzamam-ul-Haq calling for the third Powerplay, India quickly put the game out of reach.
Dravid and Yuvraj, with such a platform to build on, cruised along, stealing the singles and putting away the loose deliveries with a flourish. Yuvraj laced three lovely fours in a Razzaq over, and Dravid cut and drove powerfully when afforded width. With pace and spin being treated with an equal measure of comfort, the partnership quickly assumed match-winning proportions.
Two runs were certainly on when Malik struck one to deep point, but the batsmen had reckoned without S Sreesanth's magnificent throw from the deep. Initiative lost, Pakistan stuttered thereafter, despite cameos from Shahid Afridi, Razzaq and Gul. Sreesanth bowled wonderfully well in the final stages, conceding just 11 in four overs, and with Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar also producing fine spells, the innings was reined in. When Younis played a premeditated shot to Mohammad Kaif at cover, it was apparent that Pakistan would finish well short of the total that had been on the cards when Malik and Younis were going full pelt.
For India, it was a satisfying way to finish a day that began so well, with Salman Butt getting the faintest off edges to Pathan's second delivery of the match. After a brief period of consolidation, Kamran Akmal hacked one on, and Mohammad Yousuf - who started the innings on 6998 runs - was needlessly run out going for a non-existent second off a misfield. Inzamam then miscued a pull off the hips, and though Malik and Younis restored parity, Sreesanth's bolt from the deep and India's batting depth proved decisive.
Sachin Tendulkar c Akmal b Razzaq 42 (105 for 1)
Attempted steer flies off the edge, caught low to the right
Virender Sehwag run out (Gul) 67 (123 for 2)
Throw from deep fine leg brushed Akmal's glove on its way to the stumps
Rahul Dravid c and b Malik 56 (241 for 3)
Fine return catch high to his left
Salman Butt c Dhoni b Pathan 0 (0 for 1)
Beaten by swing and movement away, edged to the keeper
Kamran Akmal b Pathan 14 (43 for 2)
Slow delivery that arced back, chopped onto the stumps
Mohammad Yousuf run out (Tendulkar) 1 (46 for 3)
Run out going for a second run off a misfiled at square leg
Inzamam-ul-Haq c Sreesanth b Zaheer 8 (68 for 4)
Leading edge to mid-on as he tried to work the ball off his pads
Shoaib Malik run out (Sreesanth) 95 (170 for 5)
Went for the second after cutting one to point, undone by a superb throw to the keeper
Shahid Afridi c Kaif b Pathan 18 (204 for 6)
Sliced a hoick to mid-off after charging the bowler
Abdul Razzaq run out (Raina) 14 (234 for 7)
Some way short after a direct hit from mid-off
Younis Khan c Kaif b Agarkar 81 (242 for 8)
Premeditated shot scooped to the man at cover
Rana Naved-ul-Hasan c Raina b Agarkar 6 (257 for 9)
Mis-hit a slog to mid-on
Mohammad Asif run out (Sehwag) 2 (265 all out)
Caught marginally short by a throw from deep point
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo