Pakistan brought down to earth
Their bowlers were guilty of bowling 15 wides and three no-balls against India, offences that contributed 29 out of the total of 38 extras. India, in comparison, conceded only three extras - all of them leg-byes. Attributing it to a bad day doesn't quite cut it, for although Malik said it was down to "not bowling in the right areas", it's a problem Pakistan had even during their winning streak. Against Zimbabwe earlier this year, Pakistan conceded 80 extras in five games, with 62 wides and 10 no-balls, and during the home series against Bangladesh they gave away 97. Malik had said then they were "working hard on it", their efforts evidently haven't borne fruit yet.
However, some credit must be given to their bowlers for creating wicket-taking opportunities with the new ball. The architects of India's victory, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, were both let off: Gambhir on 4 and 29 by Younis Khan at slip and Sehwag by Kamran Akmal on 43. The fielding left a lot to be desired as well; a few examples that come to mind are fumbles from Salman Butt, at point and on the boundary, Malik's inability to pick up at mid-off when the batsmen were stealing a quick single, and Shahid Afridi's late reaction at point that allowed Sehwag's leading edge to lob over his head. The combined effect of the extras, dropped catches and misfields along with stroke-making from India's openers yielded a partnership of 155 at a run-rate of more than seven an over.
The composition of Pakistan's XI also left Malik with limited bowling options. They had only five regular bowlers, Afridi included, and a four-pronged pace attack meant that Malik, who hasn't bowled his offbreaks in the tournament so far, had only one spinner to use on a pitch that became slower as the ball grew older.
"When we played against Bangladesh, the ball was swinging in the evening," Malik said. "That's why we played four fast bowlers."
One of those fast bowlers, Wahab Riaz, was playing his first game against tough opponents and, although he took the wickets of Sehwag and Gambhir, his line was wayward and he went for 9.21 an over. He had to be taken out of the attack for bowling a second full toss that was above waist height during the 46th over. The situation Malik faced was a tricky one. There were four overs to go and Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul had two each. He chose not to give the task of completing the over to a part-timer and brought on Tanvir instead, ensuring that one of the remaining overs would have to be bowled by a non-regular bowler.
"Irfan [Pathan] and [Suresh] Raina were batting and they were the last pair [of recognized batsmen]," Malik said. "That's why I gave the ball to Tanvir because we needed that wicket." Tanvir failed to break the partnership but, fortunately for Malik, Gul struck twice in the penultimate over, giving Younis the easier task of bowling at Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla.
Pakistan's chances of making the final now rest on the outcome of the clash between India and Bangladesh. They won't be too worried, for the possibility of Bangladesh springing a surprise on a charged-up Indian outfit is remote. However, they are still dependent on factors outside their control, which is never a comfortable position to be in, and to beat India, if they meet them in the final on June 14, Pakistan will have to make dramatic improvements in all their departments.
Pakistan rounded off a forgettable day with a knock to their purses. Jeff Crowe, the match referee, docked Shoaib Malik 20% of his match fee while each of his players received 10% fines. "Although there was a rain interruption late in the innings," Crowe said, "which always makes it difficult to keep the overs flowing, Pakistan only bowled 13 overs by the first drinks break and never managed to recover that deficit."
George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo