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November 18, 2007
Musical chairs at the top
"We have many openers in our team," Shoaib Malik said at the toss. "Today we'll go with Salman Butt and Imran Nazir." With that Malik confirmed Pakistan were giving Butt his fourth opening partner in five one-dayers; Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Malik being the first three. It was Nazir's first opportunity of the series and he shelved his reckless approach and scored a subdued 20 off 40 balls. The end result was an opening stand of 65: Pakistan's highest of the series.
If Praveen Kumar had any nerves when Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave him the new ball on his ODI debut, he did a spectacular job of concealing them. His first two balls were left alone by Butt; the third beat the bat with a hint of swing away from the left-hander; the fourth should have been put away but Rohit Sharma's sharp fielding at midwicket prevented any runs; the fifth was defended back to the bowler; and Butt left the final ball alone to allow Kumar to complete a maiden maiden-over.
Done in by legspin
Sreesanth had bowled a poor opening spell, conceding 20 off his first three overs. Dhoni changed his end for his second spell and Sreesanth looked a different bowler. He picked up Butt and Yasir Hameed in consecutive overs to top up his confidence levels and then slipped in a clever legcutter to Nazir, who wound up to give it an almighty thump. He played the shot too early and although he made firm contact, the ball went straight to Sreesanth who took a sharp return catch. It was his 50th wicket in ODIs.
Generous with extras
Perhaps it was because three leading bowlers - Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Harbhajan Singh - were missing, or due to the lack of intensity in a dead rubber, but India's bowlers gave away 18 runs in wides after conceding only two in Gwalior. Yuvraj and Sreesanth were the most lax, bowling four wides each, and one of Yuvraj's leg-side indiscretions beat Dhoni and went to the boundary.
An exercise in futility ... and marketing
The drinks trolley for this series is shaped like an oversized soft-drink can and you can't help but feel for the people lugging it on to the field at every drinks break. They wheel it to the middle and open it up to reveal the refreshments inside only to be ignored by both sets of players. The Pakistan batsmen had their own drinks brought to them by the reserves while a golf cart sped out, carrying the Indians' energy drinks and supplements. The drinks trolley was a futile exercise ... unless you're an marketing person.
An endangered species
The introduction of the free-hit has made it a criminal offence to bowl a front foot no-ball. Bowlers are extra careful about measuring their run-ups and the no-ball has become so rare - there were none in Gwalior - that, when it occurs, you sit up and wait in anticipation for the free-hit that follows. Kumar overstepped the crease for the first time today in the 48th over. The umpire called no-ball and then twirled his hand above his head signalling the free-hit. Fawad Alam took his time, eyeing the vacant spots in the outfield. The crowd waited eagerly as Kumar ran in and bowled a full ball. Alam connected well and sent the ball racing towards long-off for a double. It was a bit of an anti-climax.
First time lucky, second time ...
Robin Uthappa was promoted up the order because he had hardly got an opportunity to play a substantial innings in the first four games. He scored one run off seven balls before edging his eighth, off Rao Iftikhar Anjum, straight to Misbah-ul-Haq at first slip. It was a simple chance but the ball went right in, and out, of Misbah's hands. Two balls later Uthappa gave Misbah a chance to redeem himself, edging another regulation catch in his directionp. This time he was headed to the dressing room while all was forgiven between Anjum and Misbah. A few overs later, Misbah watched an edge from Tendulkar fly past him at gully, before taking the next one that flew to him the very next ball.
Hey Mr DJ
The spectators at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium were kept entertained by the Hindi dance numbers that played over the PA system. They got to their feet between every over to move to the beats of popular Bollywood music. The procession of Hindi songs was suddenly interrupted by a remixed version of Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. The crowd fell relatively silent but perked up once again after normal service quickly resumed.