Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni return triumphant
The pace attack did the damage, and the batsmen then rubbed it in - despite a stutter or two - as India sealed the one-day series with a resounding five-wicket victory at Multan. When Suresh Raina, who batted with composure and class for 35, carted Imran Farhat over midwicket for
the winning runs, there were still 105 balls to be bowled. The lights may have been on at this splendid venue, but they had gone out on Pakistan much earlier in the day, with only Inzamam-ul-Haq offering some fight in an abysmal batting display.
Controlled spells from Irfan Pathan and S Sreesanth had Pakistan stuttering from the outset, and Rudra Pratap Singh then picked up two wickets in two balls to have them reeling at 29 for 4 before a 68-run partnership between Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf - the only other batsman
to cross 20 - hinted at something like a competitive total. But once Ajit Agarkar got one to shape away and take the edge of Yousuf's bat, it was little short of a procession, with Sachin Tendulkar once again scalping the prized wicket of Inzamam.
Rahul Dravid anchored the chase with an assured knock of 59, and his 85-run association with Yuvraj Singh (37) put the result beyond doubt after two early wickets from Mohammad Sami had given Pakistan a glimmer of hope. Dravid set about the salvage operation with some pleasing flicks through midwicket, and a powerful pull for four when Rana Naved-ul-Hasan came on to bowl. Rana came in for further punishment from Yuvraj, who slapped him through midwicket before a superb off-drive left the fielders standing.
Both men played some splendid shots through the covers off Abdul Razzaq, and Yuvraj greeted Mohammad Asif's return with a sublime straight-drive and an exquisite shot through the covers. The 100 of the innings came from just 20.1 overs, and only the loss of Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif in quick succession delayed a chase that was seldom more arduous than a late-afternoon stroll.
Sachin Tendulkar walks back after being dismissed by Mohammad Sami
After being asked to bat by Dravid, Pakistan had taken 13 balls to put a run on the board and 5.3 overs to strike the first four. The sedate start became a poor one when Kamran Akmal slashed one to short point, and Salman Butt's torturous 36-ball 13 ended with yet another catch to slip. Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's batting hero in this series, departed to a terrible shot, and Younis Khan lasted all of one ball as Rudra Pratap and India tightened their grip.
Looking on darkness, Inzamam upped the ante as only he could. Sreesanth was square-driven and then slashed for four, and when Agarkar came on, he was greeted with a sublime off-drive and an imperious slash for four. It took 16.2 overs for the 50, but the acceleration thereafter was smooth, with Yousuf playing a couple of splendid drives through the on-side, and
Inzamam pulling Agarkar for four. India's bowlers, who had bowled an
impeccable line and length early on, lost the plot somewhat, conceding
numerous wides as the duo set about repairing the early damage, but once
Yousuf fell, the innings subsided in just 41.5 overs.
Rudra Pratap picked up Razzaq and Farhat in the same over, and after
Inzamam trudged off, Pakistan were left to rely on the tail to take them
past 150. Rana and Mohammad Sami just about managed that before Pathan
came back to mop up.
Having sat out the last two Tests and the first three ODIs, Sami made an
immediate impact with the ball, inducing a lazy waft from Tendulkar.
Gambhir then creamed five fours in quick time before a horrendous attempt
at a pull gave Sami his second wicket. He was to add the scalp of Dravid
as well, but by then, it was too little and far too late. India, as they
had been at Rawalpindi and Lahore, were just too good.
Sachin Tendulkar c Akmal b Sami 0 (5 for 1)
Played well away from the body, edge easily taken by the keeper
Gautam Gambhir c and b Sami 21 (29 for 2)
Top-edged a pull, taken by the bowler at forward short leg
Yuvraj Singh c Akmal b Rana 37 (114 for 3)
Edged one that slanted across him, good catch low to the left
Mohammad Kaif c Inzamam b Razzaq 0 (115 for 4)
Edged a fairly wide delivery, caught above the head at first slip
Rahul Dravid lbw b Sami 59 (133 for 5)
Trapped in front by a full toss that would have gone on to hit leg
Kamran Akmal c Raina b Pathan 3 (15 for 1)
Slashed one straight to the man stationed at short point
Salman Butt c Dravid b Sreesanth 13 (27 for 2)
Poked at one that slanted across him, brilliantly taken diving to the
Shoaib Malik c Pathan b RP Singh 9 (29 for 3)
Top-edged a hook, well-taken on the run from square leg
Younis Khan lbw RP Singh 0 (29 for 4)
Trapped plumb in front by one that darted back into him
Mohammad Yousuf c Dhoni b Agarkar 25 (97 for 5)
Edged an away-going delivery, taken at the second attempt, diving to
Imran Farhat c Raina b RP Singh 14 (124 for 6)
Top-edged a pull to mid-on
Abdul Razzaq c Dhoni b RP Singh 1 (126 for 7)
Edged behind, undone by a ball slanting away
Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw b Tendulkar 49 (131 for 8)
Struck on the pad in front of off stump
Mohammad Sami c Agarkar b Pathan 11 (147 for 9)
Cramped for room, scooped one up to deep fine leg
Mohammad Asif c Dhoni b Pathan 6 (161 all out)
Edged behind while playing well away from the body
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo