Riding on a stunning 117 by Younis Khan, Pakistan pulled off a sensational last-over victory over India in the second ODI at Mohali on Thursday. Pakistan's 322, their highest total in a successful run-chase, cancelled out Sachin Tendulkar's majestic 99.
Younis arrived in the middle in the sixth over of the innings with the asking rate already above six. Starting cautiously, he kept the scorecard ticking with singles and twos, sandwiched between fours through flicks off over-pitched deliveries and glances down to the fine leg. While batting with Mohammad Yousuf, Younis did get bogged down by the nagging line and length by the Indian bowlers but a 69-run partnership with Shoaib Malik and a 102-run stand with Misbah-ul-Haq always kept Pakistan in the hunt, even as the required rate touched ten-an-over.
Employing the sweep shot to great effect - in both directions - Younis swept Sourav Ganguly for six and Tendulkar for consecutive fours behind square as India paid the price for playing with four specialist bowlers. A slog sweep for his second six off Harbhajan Singh brought up Pakistan's 200 and Irfan Pathan, economical and accurate thus far, was glanced fine by Younis to bring up his first century against India.
Misbah played yet another responsible innings under the circumstances and even though his dismissal came with Pakistan on the brink of victory, his ability to nudge singles and twos with the occasional boundary had done much to get them that far. He survived a chance when Robin Uthappa dropped him off Zaheer Khan when on 25 and cashed in with two fours off the bowler, who went for 15 runs in that over.
Younis' dismissal, with the target less than 50 runs away, left Pakistan with the firepower of Shahid Afridi and Sohail Tanvir to finish things off in style. Afridi played a typically quickfire 14-ball 29 but the Indian bowlers and fielders were clear victims of nerves. Frequent full tosses and a number of dropped chances coincided with Pakistan's mounting assault and led to their defeat.
Earlier, rash strokeplay from India's batsmen allowed Pakistan to restrict the home side to a total well below the 350 that looked possible when Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir added a rollicking 173 for the second wicket.
India, opting to bat first, suffered an early blow when Ganguly was bowled off an inside edge in the first over, bringing Gambhir to join Tendulkar at the crease. Both batsmen were content to see off the new ball which offered ample assistance to Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul.
As Shoaib occasionally beat him with pace and bogged him down, Tendulkar struck three consecutive fours off Gul's fifth over - a glance to fine leg, an edge past Younis at first slip, and a scorching back-foot drive through the covers. The fifty-run partnership came off only 62 balls and even a double bowling change, when Sohail Tanvir and Iftikhar Anjum replaced the opening bowlers, failed to slow the scoring-rate. What helped India on their way to over 300 were the 41 extras conceded by Pakistan in the innings.
While Tendulkar dominated and brought up the 100-partnership with a flick to midwicket, Gambhir mixed aggression with defence. Playing cautiously against deliveries outside the off stump - the only blemish being an outside edge off Anjum that Kamran Akmal failed to hold on to - he was particularly severe on Tanvir and the spinners.
Gul's second spell initiated Pakistan's fightback. He got his first wicket when Tendulkar, who fell one short of his 42nd hundred for the third time this year, was caught behind for 99. Gul followed it up with Gambhir's wicket in the following over. As India tried rebuilding after the double shock, a rejuvenated Gul - with speeds often flirting with the 150 kmph mark - bowled the first maiden of the innings.
Virender Sehwag - included in the side in place of Murali Kartik - and Yuvraj Singh staged a mini-recovery. But Afridi and Tanvir enticed both into playing false strokes. Shoaib, after a disastrous return over, grabbed three late wickets off a shortened run-up. In the end, it was left to Harbhajan Singh, who slammed an unbeaten 38 off 20 balls, to prey on an off-colour Iftikhar to take the home side past 300 which still proved not enough for the home side.