Pakistan 319 for 7 (Malik 65, Inzamam 60*) beat India 315 for 6 (Tendulkar 124, Dhoni 47) by 3 wickets, to level series 2-2
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
In the end, it came down to a clash of the titans, and Inzamam-ul-Haq's batting prowess overcame Sachin Tendulkar's bowling nous to give Pakistan a priceless final-ball victory that evened the six-match series at 2-2. With three needed off the last over, Tendulkar, already a centurion, bowled four dot-balls, but needing one off the last ball, Inzamam pierced the five-man off-side cordon with a gentle, precise dab past point. It was the fitting end to a magnificent match which Pakistan retrieved in a rousing manner after chasing leather all morning.
Tendulkar had been India's batting hero, thrilling the crowds with a splendid 123 as India piled up a massive 315 for 6, but each of Pakistan's top four contributed significantly to set up a fascinating denouement. Though India battled back magnificently through Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra - who also stunned everyone with two breathtaking throws that produced run-outs - Inzamam's class and composure was to prove the difference in a frenetic finale.
Often the butt of crass jokes for his running between the wickets, Inzamam was superb today, scampering ones and twos as the pressure mounted. And each time the run-rate threatened to get out of hand, he would delve into his immense repertoire and produce a sublime stroke to pierce the field.
But while Inzamam provided the final coat, the first crazy Jackson Pollock-like splotches of colour had been provided by Shahid Afridi, who carved up India's new-ball bowlers while racing to a stunning 40 from 23 balls, including two huge sixes over midwicket. Salman Butt was a far more orthodox foil, stroking some elegant shots in an innings of 48 that was ended only by an ill-judged sweep in Kartik's first over (107 for 2). But try as they might - and Sourav Ganguly rotated his bowlers around often - India couldn't staunch the flow of runs, with Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik finding the gaps with ease in the middle overs. Even Razzaq's dismissal off a Tendulkar full-toss didn't help, as Inzamam and Malik bludgeoned and caressed 70 from just 10 overs.
Malik's fantastic run-a-ball 65 ended with a mistimed loft, and though Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal all failed to make an impact - the last two victims of Nehra's golden arm - Inzamam and Mohammad Sami held their nerve to clinch a richly deserved victory.
Tendulkar's first ODI century since a marvellous 141 at Rawalpindi last March - then too, India were bested in a high-scoring thriller - had seemingly set the game up for his side, after some over-zealous watering of the pitch had resulted in an hour's play (and four overs) being lost. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the new star in India's batting firmament, managing a solid 47 - he added 129 with Tendulkar from just 135 balls - and Yuvraj Singh delivering a devastating cameo at the end, India signed off with a flourish.
No-one, though, could eclipse Tendulkar. He started the day with two immaculate flicks off the pads for four, and it was evident that he was in the mood. For much of the previous week, discussion over his alleged decline had divided the Indian public, and Tendulkar chose this high-profile game to subtly poke fingers in a few jaundiced eyes.
There was no let-up even as he neared his century, with one glorious straight six off Danish Kaneria poleaxing the cameraman at long-on. Scurrying singles with lan, he rarely paused for breath once he and Virender Sehwag had cudgelled 39 from the first five overs. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Pakistan's hero in the last game, was singled out for special treatment, as Sehwag smacked three fours in an over. Sehwag's run-out might have been expected to dull the intensity of the assault, but Dhoni came in and straightaway crunched two fours through the off side. Razzaq and Afridi did manage to bring the required rate down a little, but Tendulkar was always in control, even when miscuing an Afridi delivery for six over midwicket.
Both Dhoni and Tendulkar treated Kaneria with disdain, thumping a six apiece in racking up 29 from a three-over spell. Tendulkar showed that he had lost none of his innovative skills either, with an imperious reverse-sweep for four, as Inzamam was once again forced to call on Malik, controversial action and all. Dhoni initially escaped a stumping off Malik, but was then caught behind off the faintest of tickles. Surprisingly, it was Ganguly who walked in next, accompanied by plentiful boos from those geniuses in the stands who chose to ignore his near-10,000 runs for the national team.
Ganguly's patchy 18 upset the runscoring rhythm, especially once Tendulkar was forced to seek a runner after succumbing to cramp. He soldiered on until Malik sneaked one past a tame and tired attempted sweep (248 for 4). Yuvraj and Rahul Dravid didn't give Pakistan any respite, running briskly and thumping fours when opportunities came along. Dravid holed out in the deep, and Mohammad Kaif failed again, but Yuvraj swung the bat with power and precision as India raced past 300. It might have been enough, but for Inzamam being the coolest man in the hot-house.
How they were out
Virender Sehwag run out (Younis) 29 (65 for 1)
Run out backing up too far - direct hit from short midwicket.
MS Dhoni c Akmal b Malik 47 (194 for 2)
Caught behind trying to tickle one to fine leg.
Sourav Ganguly run out (Malik/Akmal) 18 (242 for 3)
Run out by Shoaib Malik's throw from short fine leg, after being sent back.
Sachin Tendulkar b Malik 123 (248 for 4)
Bowled behind his legs.
Rahul Dravid c Naved b Malik 19 (288 for 5)
Biffed one straight to deep midwicket.
Mohammad Kaif b Sami 5 (296 for 6)
Played around a full delivery.
Shahid Afridi c Tendulkar b Balaji 40 (68 for 1)
Attempted to hoick one over midwicket and skyed it towards mid-off, where Tendulkar took a well-judged catch.
Salman Butt lbw b Kartik 48 (107 for 2)
Missed a straight one while trying to sweep.
Abdul Razzaq c Kartik b Tendulkar 44 (183 for 3)
Smashed a waist-high full-toss straight down midwicket's throat.
Shoaib Malik c Balaji b Kartik 65 (253 for 4)
Holed out to long-off.
Yousuf Youhana c Balaji b Zaheer 11 (265 for 5)
Attempted to pull a short one from Zaheer and hit it straight to fine leg.
Younis Khan run out (Nehra/Khan) 7 (281 for 6)
Failed to make his ground after attempting a third.
Kamran Akmal run out (Nehra) 10 (295 for 7)
Beaten by a direct hit from mid-off while going for a cheeky single.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo.