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Pakistan outclass India

Sharjah, March 26: When it comes to India-Pakistan matches, it all boils down the ability of a team to psyche themselves up to the challenge on that day. The two are pretty sentimental sides and hence prone to cracking under pressure.

Pakistan made no such mistake on Sunday and applied themselves much better to the task at hand with experienced Inzamam-ul-Haq leading their batting revival with a blistering century just when it mattered most.

They badly needed to win the match to stay in the hunt - and they did in style, beating an indifferent India by 98 runs to record their first victory in three matches in the Sharjah Cup triangular series.

Berated for inept batting for a long, Pakistani batsmen came good on a wicket sympathetic towards batsmen, scoring a handsome 272 for three, rattling up a brisk 93 in the last 10 overs - certainly one of the high-points of their innings.

Then their bowlers, spearheaded by Waqar Younis, suffocated India's hopes with lively spells. India needed a flying start to make a match of it. But it didn't happen.

Waqar, who returned with a haul of five wickets for 31 runs, set the tone of their dreadful start as early as in the fourth over when he removed Saurav Ganguly for just seven and then Wasim Akram claimed the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar (10) with an inswinging delivery that slipped through the bat and pad on to the stumps in the very next over.

The fall of the openers, on whom India rely heavily, by the fifth over completely unsettled them as rest of the batsmen just failed to retrieve India from a desperate position.

Sunil Joshi, promoted up the order, too fell quickly to Waqar and a defeat began staring at the Indians.

It was all over for India when Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin, who began shaping well, fell in quick succession, reducing India to 90 for five in 25 overs.

Dravid (29) chased a wide delivery from Shoaib Akhtar while Azhar snicked to Moin Khan off Waqar, who is now just one wicket short of joining the exclusive 300-club.

Rest of the batsmen only tended to delay the inevitable.

There is no excuse for India, who surprisingly just didn't bat well on this wicket.

Earlier Pakistan were not off to a flyer, but paced their innings quite well, opening up in the last 10 overs when Inzamam and Youhana toyed with the Indian attack.

Given a reasonably good start by Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan after the early fall of Imran Nazir, Pakistan consolidated their gains rather step by step.

Afridi and Younis, curbing their instinct to go for full-blooded shots, took time to have their eyes in.

They took the score to 44 by the 13th over when Afridi, going for a big one, missed the line and was stumped by Saba Karim, an untidy effort though, off Anil Kumble for 28 off 41 balls with four fours.

In came Inzamam and Pakistan innings began to gather pace gradually.

Inzamam also took time to get into the groove and built his innings with occasional four and six.

Pakistan needed a good stand at this moment and Inzamam, in the company of Younis Khan, did just that, putting on good 66 runs when Younis was brilliantly caught by Azharuddin off Joshi for a well-made 44 off 66 balls with three fours and a six.

With Pakistan three down for 121 by the 29th over, things looked well in control for India, but Pakistan were in different mood.

Inzamam, in particular, had done his home work well. With Yousuf Youhana, a solid batsman, Inzamam took the score to 179 for three by the 40th over when they launched the pyrotechnics.

It all began in the 43rd over, bowled by Anil Kumble, when Inzamam smashed the leg-spinner for two sixes off successive balls to reel of 18 runs in that over.

Youhana, who was keeping quite for a well, suddenly exploded, executing strokes all-round the wicket almost with the ease of Inzamam.

With the ball travelling all over the place, the Indian bowlers simply had no clue how to stop the brisk flow of runs. Inzamam duly completed his century in the 47th over - his seventh and first against India in 212 one-day internationals - with seven fours and five sixes in 97 balls.

At the one end, Youhana also reached his 50 in 60 balls with four fours and one six. And when Pakistan ended their innings the score had shot up to 272 and it was primarily thanks to a record unbeaten fourth wicket stand of 151 runs of just 132 balls between Inzamam and Youhana.

They beat the previous best of 111 against India set up by Imran Khan and Javed Miandad in Gujranwala in 1992.

Indian skipper Ganguly felt: "We are not batting well here. In fact, it was Waqar's spell that took the match away from."

Moin attributed the victory to 'team effort.' He said: "Everyone did a good job, but Waqar and Inzamam were outstanding. The victory has lifted our morale and we will be a different team, not the one which lost seven straight matches."