India's bowlers prevent whitewash
India 167 (Dhoni 36, Ajmal 5-24) beat Pakistan 157 (Misbah 39, Ishant 3-36) by ten runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Not since the winter of 1983, when Clive Lloyd's West Indies avenged their loss in the World Cup final, had India been whitewashed in an ODI series at home. Following their third poor batting performance against Pakistan, India were hurtling towards a 0-3 score line in the cold of Delhi, until their bowlers rallied in conditions that offered seam and spin, applying relentless pressure until Misbah-ul-Haq's team cracked in the dead rubber.
As Yuvraj Singh, pursued by team-mates, went off on a celebratory run and slide after catching Mohammad Hafeez in the penultimate over to secure a hard-fought victory, the exuberant celebrations on the field and in the stands at the Kotla were a release of emotion from a country that has had precious little to celebrate in cricket in recent times.
An Indian victory, however, had appeared unlikely after their batsmen had crumbled against Pakistan's versatile attack. A raw seam attack, spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the debutant Shami Ahmed, had only 167 to defend and they went about it manfully. Ahmed began his spell with two maiden overs and continued to bowl with economy. Bhuvneshwar nipped out two early wickets with inswingers and bowled his ten overs on the trot, leaving Pakistan 55 for 2 after 19 overs.
During that period, India's fielding was at its best, with Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja throwing their bodies around on a chilly evening to cut off fluent flicks and drives. The only easy runs Pakistan got were two leg-side wides from the offspinner R Ashwin that beat MS Dhoni and sped to the boundary.
Pakistan rebuilt through Misbah, who batted doggedly for 39 off 82 balls, first with Nasir Jamshed and then with Umar Akmal. Both those stands were ended by Ashwin, and at 113 for 4 in difficult batting conditions, India were gaining ground. They received a lucky break, when Shoaib Malik was adjudged lbw to Ishant Sharma though he was hit outside the line, and Akmal charged Ravindra Jadeja too early and was stumped.
Only Hafeez, batting at No. 7 because of an injury while bowling, stood between India and victory and he was dropped by Rahane in the 42nd over, a straightforward chance at leg slip. He dragged his team towards the target and had to refuse singles with the No. 11 Mohammad Irfan, after Pakistan had lost three wickets in eight balls. With 23 runs needed in the last two overs, Hafeez hit two boundaries before holing out to off Ishant.
Any immediate anguish Pakistan felt, however, quickly dissipated as their players, heavily jacketed in the misty evening, celebrated a 2-1 series victory.
That India had at least 167 to defend was largely down to Dhoni, who was Man of the Match for his captaincy and his 36 off 55 balls, and Jadeja. Having left out Virender Sehwag to give Rahane a run, India lost three early wickets to the pace and swing of Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan. And they continued to struggle against Saeed Ajmal, who dismissed Suresh Raina and Ashwin off successive deliveries on his way to a five-wicket haul. India were 111 for 6 in the 29th over. Dhoni immediately carted Hafeez for his third six over deep midwicket and in a later over he inflicted the blow - a flat smash - that forced the Pakistan opener down the order.
Dhoni fell in the 35th over and Jadeja, because he was running out of partners, began to attack and score what he could. He hit a towering straight six off Umar Gul, and another off Ajmal over cow corner, but his riposte ended on 27. India were dismissed in the 44th over, but the wasted resources did not cost them the game.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo