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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
June 10, 2008
India showed how the hectic pace of Twenty20 cricket could be replicated in ODIs, pounding 330 on a sluggish pitch before their bowlers rounded off a thumping win in their opening match of the tournament. Pakistan, coming off 12 successive wins against weak opposition, crashed to their worst defeat against India and their coach Geoff Lawson, who had hoped for a 150-run win, would have been embarrassed to see the shoe on the other foot.
India's domination was complete. Their mammoth total was made possible not by one but three batsmen: Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir made the most of some sloppy catching, getting within four runs of India's highest opening stand against Pakistan, before Yuvraj Singh raised visions of a 375-plus total. They settled for 330 but that didn't matter in the final analysis. Once Pakistan crumbled to 26 for 3, it was only a case of picking up the pieces.
A run-rate of 6.6 is impressive in all conditions but the fact that India kept it up on a sluggish pitch that offered some assistance to the medium-pacers added more gloss to the effort. Their fifty came up as early as the seventh over but Pakistan's four-pronged pace attack didn't start as badly as the run-rate suggested. They troubled the batsmen with swing and seam and even managed the edge on a few occasions but they were let down by poor fielding. Younis Khan allowed Gambhir two lives - on 4 and 29 - with identical edges flying past him at second slip and Kamran Akmal let off Sehwag on 43 when he lost control of the ball after appearing to have snared an edge to his right.
Sehwag, who walked all the way back to the boundary before returning, made the most of his good fortune, racing to his first fifty in a year. He was dropped for the final stages of India's CB Series but an injury to Sachin Tendulkar allowed him another chance. He wasn't his customary buccaneering self, and that was probably because of the nature of the surface, but he continuously peppered the region behind square. Preferring to use the pace of the bowlers, he walked across and whipped a few off his pads while settling for the judicious glide on other occasions.
The area behind square was productive for Gambhir as well but it was the occasional skip down the ground that unsettled the bowlers. He didn't hesitate charging the quicker men and actually cut one over the infield, off left-armer Wahab Riaz, with both his feet in mid-air.
Riaz dismissed both openers in the space of a couple of overs but went on to have a forgettable day. It was the first time he was up against top-class opposition and the wheels began to come off once Yuvraj went after him. He even let slip two beamers - the second was probably because of the slippery ball - and wasn't allowed to complete his final over. It meant he earned the dubious distinction of bowling the most expensive spell against India, conceding one more than what Ata-ur-Rahman did in Sharjah back in 1996.
Incidentally it was in that game where India passed 300 for the first time in an ODI. Here, more than 12 years later, they were in sight of much more as Yuvraj began striking it clean. He gauged the slow nature of the track and ensured he played late. A couple of half-trackers were swatted away over midwicket and his neat clips towards square leg suggested a batsman preparing to explode, but he fell to Umar Gul in the quest for quick runs.
It was always going to be an uphill task for Pakistan and the contest was all but over once Praveen Kumar struck four big blows, including a two-in-two. Swinging the new ball either way, he showed how dangerous he could be in congenial conditions. Praveen had Rohit Sharma to thank for the opening breakthrough: a sensational reflex catch at short cover got rid of Salman Butt.
A slightly wide ball was lashed hard but Rohit, throwing himself to the left and ensuring his hands got around a low chance, hung on superbly. There was no need of any such acrobatics for the next one: Younis Khan snicked to the wicketkeeper and walked back for his second successive duck.
Akmal and Misbah ensured Praveen didn't have a perfect day - taking 17 off his fifth over, including four cracking fours - but Akmal was livid after falling to a full toss, lobbing a leading edge to mid-on. Misbah too couldn't carry on, falling to an injudicious waft, and it was left to Shoaib Malik to pick up the pieces. He soldiered on to a fifty but his meaty blows were largely inconsequential in the face of a steep mountain. Chawla finished with four wickets, tormenting the tail and giving the finishing touches to a near-perfect day for India.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
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