India 287 for 2 (Yuvraj 107*, Dhoni 77*, Dravid 50) beat Pakistan 286 for 8 (Younis 74*, Yousuf 67) by 8 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out


Mahendra Singh Dhoni pulled out the most audacious of shots

© AFP

A wave of inevitability enveloped the National Stadium at Karachi as India signed off with an emphatic eight-wicket win and completed a 4-1 drubbing in style. Yet again India chased, yet again they triggered a top-order collapse, yet again they rode on a Yuvraj Singh special and yet again they left Pakistan quite hopeless at the end of it all. One just needed to see Pakistan's fielding to realise the rift between the two sides. It was really a no-contest.

The scorecard might suggest otherwise - after all 288 can be a pretty imposing score. It was an impressive revival, once the top order faltered against Sreesanth and Co. for the fourth successive game, with Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan providing the boost. But considering the nature of the surface, the insipid nature of Pakistan's bowling effort, and their atrocious fielding display, no total might have been enough. Add Yuvraj Singh's near-invincible touch and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's golden hand, India's 13th successful run-chase on the trot was almost written in stone.

India started their chase in a clinical fashion, with Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir setting the tempo, but a tight spell of medium-pace from the inexperienced duo of Rao Iftikhar Anjum and Yasir Arafat reined them in. A totally assured Dravid notched up his fourth fifty as a one-day opener, dropping anchor and piloting the innings, but his dismissal in the 31st over, with the score on 141 opened up a small window for Pakistan.

That was when Yuvraj and Dhoni, heroes of the Lahore triumph, sized up the situation, stole quick runs and got through some tight overs. Occasionally, Yuvraj boomed cover-drives through the packed off-side field and released the pressure while Dhoni, like a predator waiting to pounce, warned himself up with some running between the wickets.

With wickets in hand, they were always in with a chance. With Pakistan's fielders transforming into bumbling wrecks and bowlers turning on the erratic button, there was absolutely no doubt who would win it. In what was a critical point in the game, with India needing 94 and Yuvraj on 64, he drove uppishly to extra cover, at a comfortable catching height, but Shoaib Malik, moving a bit too slowly, lunged to his left and fluffed it.

It was a point that had a drastic effect on both sides - Pakistan's fielding went from bad to worse and India pillaged the required runs at more than 10 an over. Yuvraj was hampered by a hamstring pull when on 82, but he powdered the bowling with shots straight out of a boxing manual. He might have been hobbling in pain but thunderous punches followed, uppercuts followed short-arm jabs as he brought up his first one-day hundred against Pakistan.

At the other end, there was pure mayhem. Somewhere around the late 20s, Dhoni decided that enough was enough. Pulling out the most audacious of shots - swivel slaps that zoomed to square leg, lofted drives off near-yorkers - he spanked his last fifty runs in just 27 balls. Mohammad Asif's reverse-swinging deliveries were dispatched to midwicket; Mohammad Sami was lofted over long-on as if he was a part-time spinner and ended the series with an astonishing average of 219.

Nobody, though, should under-estimate the influence of India's medium-pace attack, who, for the fourth time this series, delivered on a flat deck. Things were looking rosy for Pakistan when Kamran Akmal and Imran Farhat provided them with a solid platform, but Sreesanth dented all their plans in a span of around five overs. He stuck to a straight line, varying his angle of delivery intelligently, but was also helped by some shoddy judgement from both the openers. He soon had his third wicket, with Shoaib Malik playing away from his body, and Pakistan found themselves in further strife when Ramesh Powar, playing in his first game of the series, choked them with a spell of accurate offspin and snapped up Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Unlike at Multan, though, the middle order showed the stomach for battle and Yousuf led the way with an attacking knock. Thriving in the company of Younis, he found the gaps with ease and the duo upped the ante in the middle overs. Some wayward bowling in the middle overs, with several wides down the leg side added to the pressure being released but Yousuf's tame dismissal in the 41st over turned into a roadblock. A late blitz from Younis boosted the total but it turned out to be a mere footnote in a special Indian win.

India

Gautam Gambhir c Kamran Akmal b Iftikhar Anjum 38 (69 for 1)
chased a wide one

Pakistan

Imran Farhat c and b Sreesanth 24 (62 for 1)
Top edged a pull

Kamran Akmal c RP Singh b Sreesanth 25 (71 for 2)
Skied a pull to fine leg

Shoaib Malik c Raina b Sreesanth 12 (77 for 3)
Punching away from his body; good low catch at gully

Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw b Powar 21 (115 for 4)
Misses a full ball trying to sweep; close callbr>

Mohammad Yousuf c Zaheer b Agarkar 67 (210 for 5)
Chipped straight to deep midwicket

Abdul Razzaq c Dravid b RP Singh 24 (239 for 6)
Attempted to slog over midwicket; skied a catch to square leg

Yasir Arafat b Zaheer 10 (261 for 7)
Missed a wild swipe

Mohammad Sami c Kaif b Sreesanth 2 (264 for 8)
Slapped a full toss straight cover

India

Gautam Gambhir c Akmal b Rao 38 (69 for 1)
Slashed a wide delivery that was going away

Rahul Dravid c Malik b Sami 50 (141 for 2)
Tried to flick from off to leg; popped it straight to mid-on

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo