When India and Pakistan clash, the match is usually hard fought. Today was one of those days when the Pakistani top order collapsed and gave their bowlers almost nothing to bowl at. On winning the toss, Moin Khan chose to bat first. A decision that his team did not back. In scoring just 146, they gave India the upper hand in the match by the time the first innings was done.
More than good bowling on the part of the Indians, it was some loose batting by the Pakistanis that decided the game.
The opinion that the Pakistani top order is brittle was vindicated by a shocking start by the Pakistanis. Venkatesh Prasad who was drafted into the side to replace the injured Javagal Srinath was in the action immediately. Off the very first ball he bowled, Shahid Afridi played a typically loose shot, edging the ball to slip. Prasad put the ball in the slot just outside off stump. The ball was a bit short and probably not of driving length. Afridi however had no hesitation in giving it the full treatment, and that too without any movement of the feet. The ball flew of the edge towards the safe hands of Mohammed Azhauddin at slip. Diving low, Azhar snapped up the catch, leaving Pakistan in a sticky situation at 1/1.
Abdur Razzaq, who batted at one drop for the Pakistanis in the World Cup in England, came in at the fall of Afridi's wicket. He approached batting in a more conventional way than Afridi, but not necessarily with more success. Undone by a Ajit Agarkar slower ball, Razzaq checked a cover drive a second too late. The ball went straight to Ajay Jadeja at covers who pouched the catch with ease.
At 6/2 Pakistan were off to one of their bad starts.
After that start, wickets fell at regular intervals. Imran Nazir batted well, timing the ball sweetly in his innings of 43. No one else really got going.
Youhana motored along to 17 before a drama unfolded. A drama that we have seen played out time and time again when Inzamam is at the wicket. Youhana dabbed a ball from Robin Singh into the off side and set off for a single. Inzamam half responded and stood a few paces down the wicket. It was too late for Youhana to turn around when Saba Karim scurried across, picked up the ball and threw the stumps down at the bowler's end. Television replays were called into play to decide which one of the batsmen were out. By the time the bails were off, both batsmen were running full tilt for the same crease.
The third umpire ruled Youhana out and he walked off in confusion having made a restrained 17.
Off the very next ball, Inzamam perished. Trying to chop a delivery that was too close to the stumps for that shot, Inzamam nicked the ball through. The ball zipped through to Saba Karim who took a good sharp catch. Inzamam's innings of 41 off 77 balls appeared to take Pakistan towards the shores of safety. In the end however, it did not prove to be enough.
Having made just 146, Pakistan had to bowl with fire to try and stop the Indians from achieving their target. Shoaib Akhtar did just that, first rattling Ganguly up with some short pitched bowling and then trapping Sachin Tendulkar plumb in front. However, he was not supported by the rest of the cast. None of the Pakistani bowlers could penetrate the steady batting of Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Azharuddin.
Azhar brought up his fifty off 79 balls, but was dismissed soon after. Arshad Khan, sparingly used in the match, had Azhar caught by Younis Khan at mid on. Azhar's innings of 54 highlighted his value in the middle order.
After Azhar was dismissed the batsmen struggled to score runs. However, the match was all but over by then. India went through to a five wicket victory with over six overs to spare.
Understandably, Mohammed Azharuddin was named the man of the match.