June 3, 2000

Youhana bats Pakistan into Asia Cup final

India lost the toss - and just about everything that followed. They were beaten hands down in the batting department while the bowlers had the worst possible day. If Ganguly was upset about experienced cricketers not applying themselves in the defeat against Sri Lanka he would certainly be upset with the showing his youngsters put up today. When your opening bowlers give away 161 runs between them, the match is halfway lost. The other half proved equally painful as India slumped to 251 all out and were knocked out of the seventh Asia Cup, going down to Pakistan by 44 runs at the Bangabandhu stadium on Saturday.

Imran Nazir must be controlled. There must be some kind of law prohibiting the assault he launched on the Indians. Hitting cleanly, Nazir took the Indian bowlers to task in the severest possible manner. Neither the inexperienced Thirunavukarasu Kumaran nor the even more inexperienced Amit Bhandari could stop him.

As is usually the case, the ball was thrown to Anil Kumble in distress. Brought on to bowl the ninth over, Kumble sent down a good, tight over, the first maiden of the day. In just his second over, Kumble drew first blood for India as Saeed Anwar hit a ball straight to Kumaran at long on. Even as the first wicket fell, Pakistan had 74 runs on the board. Before the scoreboard could tick over, Imran Nazir followed his senior partner back to the pavilion. In similar fashion he holed out to Ajit Agarkar in the deep.

Shahid Afridi joined Yousuf Youhana and the latter played the kind of innings that people will remember for a long time to come. No pomp. No splendour. But he never ever gave the bowlers a chance. Knocking the ball neatly around the park, using the angled bat to great effect, Youhana sealed one end up. He brought up his fifty in 90 balls, rather slow one might say for a limited overs international. But when Kumaran sent down the last ball of the innings and that promptly disappeared off Youhana's blade over the long on fence, it was a fairy tale finish. Youhana's second fifty had come off just 23 balls. Ending on a neat, unbeaten 100, Youhana looked up to the skies and made the sign of the cross in gratitude.

While Youhana gave the Indians a lesson in maturity, Moin Khan did what he is best at. Swatting the ball into the gaps and running furiously between the wickets, the wily stumper picked up a run a ball 46. Attempting to go down the wicket and cut a wide ball from Agarkar, Moin Khan departed with the score on 195. With only 10 overs to go the score of 300 which looked on the cards earlier seemed an unlikely scenario. All that changed as Youhana shifted into top gear, pressed the accelerator and left the Indians standing in a cloud of dust. If he was the hero of this well scripted innings, his supporting cast was not far behind. Abdur Razzaq, Wasim Akram and Azhar Mahmood all came up with timely cameos to take Pakistan to an imposing 295.

In the end, Kumaran pipped Bhandari to the post for the award of most expensive bowler. Giving away 86 runs of his 10 overs, the Tamil Nadu medium pacer will have nightmares of this game. Not far behind with 75 to his tally, Bhandari will perhaps smart a little more as his debut was one that was predominantly without joy. Although he did pick up a couple of consolation wickets, it was, at the end of the day an eminently forgettable performance.

After putting close to three hundred on the board, the two Akrams, Wasim and Mohammed began well without luck. Sharp as ever, Akram had his first scalp when Sourav Ganguly flashed hard at a ball outside the off stump and edged the ball to the waiting hands of Mohammed Akram at third man. There was justice after all. A few balls earlier Ganguly nicked a ball through to the 'keeper and despite vehement appeals was ruled not out by umpire Asoka de Silva. If that was the first bit of luck that went in India's favour there was more to follow. First Mohammed Akram trapped Tendulkar plumb in front off a no ball. If that was not enough, Rahul Dravid gloved a ball that was well down the leg side through to the 'keeper. The Pakistani team converged on Moin Khan and celebrated but Asoka de Silva once more stood in their way. In disbelief they returned to their positions. As is always the case, Dravid added insult to injury by putting away the next two balls that followed to the fence. As it turned out neither Dravid nor Tendulkar made it to their 30s. Abdur Razzaq struck dual blows, trapping Tendulkar and Dravid plumb in front with his brand of naggingly accurate medium pace.

Much depended on Azhar and the Hyderabadi once again failed to deliver the goods. The wrists that have won him fans the world over turned against him as he flicked a ball on his pads to Imran Nazir. Taking a sharp catch close to the ground, Nazir sent Azhar on his way.

At 74/4 there were no miracles that could save India. Robin Singh and Ajay Jadeja, who have at times pulled India out of holes found this abyss too deep. After making 20 odd, Singh ran himself out.

Jadeja proceeded to play the kind of innings that has become famous for. A brave half century in a lost cause. After getting his eye well in, Jadeja lofted the ball efficiently. A couple of dropped catches later Jadeja had helped himself to a big half century while the asking rate began its one way climb upwards.

Mongia and Kumble dutifully did their bits as lower order batsmen. Agarkar combined with Jadeja to strike a few clean blows. By this time it was only a case of delaying the inevitable.