Pakistan Seniors v India Seniors, 1st match, Karachi April 24, 2006

Azharuddin leads India Seniors to exciting win

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39 overs India Seniors 255 for 7 (Azharuddin 82) beat Pakistan Seniors 251 for 5 (Sohail 64, Azam 71) by three wickets



Mohammad Azharuddin's 82 set up a thrilling victory © AFP

Mohammad Azharuddin, the former Indian captain, struck a classy 82 to lead the Indian Seniors to an exciting three-wicket win over Pakistan Seniors in the first game of the four-match series at the National Stadium at Karachi.

Azharuddin, now 43, who burst onto the Test scene with three successive hundreds against England in 1983, showed why he was regarded as one of the classiest batsmen of his time with a fluent knock that set up the Indian win. His 78-ball knock that included eight wristy fours and a six, allowed the Indians to successfully reach 255 for 7 in 39 overs after the home side had posted a challenging score of 251 for 5 in the allotted 40 overs.

Azhar's innings was a treat to watch for the handful of people at the stadium in the sweltering heat and on a good one-day track as he played with poise and comfort, picking singles at will as he shared a matchwinning 122-run stand for the third wicket with Amarjeet Singh Kaypee who scored 43 from 69 balls.

Later Parveen Amre struck a hard-hitting 35 from 21 balls with six fours and Nayan Mongia made 15 from 13 balls to complete the win after the Indians were left requiring 13 to win in the last two overs with three wickets in hand.

For Pakistan, the captain Abdul Qadir was hit for 47 runs off six overs with offspinner Ijaz Faqih being the most successful bowler with 3 for 39 from his eight overs. Manzoor Elahi gave his team a good start by removing openers Manoj Prabhakar (13) and David Johnson (11) before Azhar produced his fine innings.

Earlier in the day, the spectators got to watch Javed Miandad bat for just 17 balls as he struck an unbeaten 16 with one four. His batting came late after Aamer Sohail struck 64 from 75 balls with eight boundaries along with Azam Khan, who top-scored with 71 from 83 balls, put on a 139-run opening stand.

Mansoor Akhtar, who scored a 35 off 33 balls and Raees Ahmed with 38 from 26 balls, allowed the home side to post a competitive total with Sanjeev Sharma taking 2 for 32 as although Prabhakar was also impressive with the new ball conceding just 27 in six overs.

Pakistan seniors, during their tour of India last year, had won the series 4-1 but this time their main scorer and bowler Rashid Latif is missing from the series. Azharuddin later told reporters he was able to play a long innings in the intense heat as he had kept himself fit by training regularly in the gymnasium. Azhar, who owns a well-known health club in his hometown Hyderabad, said most players, after retirement, tended to give up their training which created problems for them. "But I've kept myself fit and I still enjoy my cricket whenever I get a chance to play at any level."