Pakistan 201 for 7 (Youhana 81*, Pathan 3-34) beat India 200 (Dravid 67, Naved-ul-Hasan 4-25, Shoaib Akhtar 4-36) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A magnificent unbeaten 81 from Yousuf Youhana and a devastating late cameo from Shahid Afridi made all the difference as Pakistan held their nerve to win a thrilling encounter at Edgbaston. Fortunes swung this way and that before Youhana - struggling with cramp - steered his side home with four balls to spare.
Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (4 for 25) and Shoaib Akhtar (4 for 35) had set the game up for Pakistan with some superb bowling, but Irfan Pathan matched them with a fabulous opening spell that ensured that there would be no cakewalk for Pakistan. But while his opening salvo was the epitome of parsimony, Pathan's second spell cost India the game.
He made the fatal mistake of pitching short to Afridi, and found a ferocious pull over square leg followed by an amazing loft over long-on. That appeared to be all she wrote as far as the contest was concerned, especially when another four came in Pathan's next over. But after he had sprinted to 25 from only 11 balls Afridi's recklessness then gifted Yuvraj Singh a wicket, courtesy of a simple catch for Virender Sehwag at midwicket (187 for 7), before Youhana and Rana saw it through.
Pathan had given India the fillip they so badly needed by dismissing Imran Farhat in the very first over. A half-hearted waft and some late movement resulted in an edge through to Rahul Dravid (1 for 1). And in his next over, it got twice as nice with Shoaib Malik playing a similar shot to a ball that slanted away from him (10 for 2).
It was a wonderful spell from Pathan, and even Inzamam-ul-Haq treated him with due deference, though Yasir Hameed at the other end appeared intent on flashing at everything that came his way. His chancy knock of 15 ended when Pathan tempted him into a hook, straight to Ashish Nehra at deep square leg. Nehra juggled once or twice, but it finally stuck (27 for 3).
But once Pathan had bowled seven overs, Sourav Ganguly took him off, bringing back Nehra, who had earlier been replaced by Agarkar. Youhana, nervous till then, said hello with a powerful cut, and a sumptuous off-drive. And soon after the drinks break, he carted Ajit Agarkar for six with a nonchalant pull.
Ganguly had by then thrown the ball to Harbhajan Singh, but after a quiet first over, his second went for 13, as a glorious square-drive from Youhana was buttressed by a fine tickle and a powerful sweep from Inzamam. When he got past 23, Inzamam became only the second batsman in the history of ODI cricket - Sachin Tendulkar, the first, by a mile - to go past 10,000 runs.
Pakistan then went into cruise control, with Inzamam hammering Ganguly back over his head, and then smacking Sehwag's first ball to the midwicket fence. With the situation desperate, Ganguly tossed the ball to Agarkar, who hit the pitch with the seam perfectly upright to induce a lazy nudge behind from Inzamam. He was gone for 41 (102 for 4), and suddenly the jitters were back.
Abdul Razzaq (9) didn't ease the nerves when he chopped a Sehwag delivery onto his stumps, and it was left to the experienced duo of Youhana and Moin Khan to get Pakistan back within range. There was a further wobble though, with Yuvraj taking a stunning catch - diving to his right like Gordon Banks in his pomp - to send back Moin (152 for 6) off Nehra's bowling. But then Afridi's booming bat intervened to settle matters.
The tenor for India's innings was set in the very first over, with Ganguly repeatedly wafting at wide deliveries from Mohammad Sami. The fifth one took the edge through to Moin, and a statuesque Ganguly finally had to move his feet - towards the pavilion (0 for 1).
If that was bad, VVS Laxman's dismissal was abysmal. A rank long-hop from Rana was smashed straight to Malik stationed just in front of the square-leg umpire (10 for 2). That left Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif to negotiate some probing bowling from Sami and Rana, with Kaif's ferocious pull past midwicket the sole indicator of attacking intent.
That early revival was short-lived though, with Sehwag continuing his recent miserable run - 189 runs in 13 matches this season. Worse still, it was another gift for Rana, a full-length delivery outside leg stump converted into further catching practice for Malik on the leg side (28 for 3).
Pakistan's position would have been further strengthened had Afridi held on to a straightforward chance at cover when Kaif had made only 9, and Sami's disappointment was exacerbated when the batsman smashed the next ball for four through extra cover.
When Malik was brought on, Dravid set about disturbing his rhythm straight away, pulling a half-tracker for four, and then cutting one beautifully backward of point. With the partnership having swelled to 45, Shoaib made his move, producing a blistering over to send back Kaif and Yuvraj. Kaif edged one that was just short of a length outside off stump, and three balls later Yuvraj took the same route back to the pavilion.
Rohan Gavaskar struggled for his 13 before Razzaq put him out of his misery (106 for 6), but Inzamam then missed a trick by not bringing back his strike bowlers to wrap up the innings. With no Shoaib or Sami to test him, Agarkar grew in confidence, lacing some superb strokes.
Dravid's innings was as workmanlike as they come, and he also survived two vociferous appeals for caught-behind, one each off Malik and Shoaib, along the way. But after he passed 50, both batsmen opened out with some punishing shots. Agarkar tonked Sami back over his head, and then slammed Afridi for four and six over midwicket.
That was the cue for Dravid to open up, with a deliberate deflection down to third man, and a deft flick off the pads for four more off Afridi. His resistance finally ended when he top-edged a pull to present Rana with a simple return catch (188 for 7). And moments later, Rana had a fourth wicket to savour when Agarkar scooped a slower ball to Youhana just behind square (193 for 8).
Shoaib returned to scalp Pathan and Nehra, but India just about scraped to 200. It was so nearly enough, until Afridi and Youhana decided to do something about Pakistan's hitherto poor record against India in World Cup/Mini World Cup matches.
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.