Bob Woolmer's men are coming on well, but can he afford an opening batsman who averages less than 25, as Shahid Afridi does © Getty Images

Do not underestimate the importance of this match. Assuming that India and Pakistan don't meet again in the final of this event, the next time they take each other on will be on September 19, in what will virtually be the quarter-final of the ICC Champions Trophy. Inzamam will then go into that game with two thumping wins against India to his credit, and the extent of his confidence will be matched by the self-doubts that Sourav Ganguly's men will inevitably feel. Add to that the pressure of the occasion - the loser flies home to an certain public backlash - and you understand why this game was no mere warm-up.

There are equal amounts of credit and blame to be apportioned. This is Pakistan's 21st win in 30 one-day internationals under Inzamam-ul-Haq, which shows that this is not just a young team, but a resurgent one. Bob Woolmer has only come on board as coach recently, but his influence is already palpable, especially in the fielding. It was epitomised by Inzamam's excellent left-hand throw to run out Rahul Dravid. Normally, when Inzamam causes a run-out, he has a bat in his hand and a sheepish look on his face. All those Indian fans of Dravid who have ever called Inzi a potato, this one was for you.

There are some areas of Pakistan's strategy that Woolmer must rethink, though. Shahid Afridi has loads of talent, but needs to be more judicious in his shot-making. Playing your natural game is one thing, but being perpetually in slog mode is quite another. Afridi bowled well today, using the conditions - slowish pitch, variable bounce - to excellent effect, but if he is to open the batting, he needs to deliver more often than a batting average of 24 indicates.

Yasir Hameed's tactics were also strange, a throwback to an era when people had yet to come to terms with the demands of limited-overs cricket. He began his innings by blocking a few and letting go a few others, as if he intended to bat out all 50 overs even though there were only 36 available. Then, realising that it was time to get a move on, he got out to a wild slog, as if to compensate for Afridi's departure from the crease. Didn't anyone tell him that truly awful analogy about how the bowling was a cow, and he must milk it? Or that even worse one about how the scoreboard was a timebomb, and it would explode when it stopped ticking?

Shoaib Malik's elevation to No. 3, soundly criticised by commentators throughout the Asia Cup, where he made two hundreds, has worked well for Pakistan, even though Yousuf Youhana seems wasted lower down at No. 5. Malik and Youhana's useful partnership of 64, at just above a-run-a-ball pace, set Pakistan up nicely for the finish, and Abdul Razzaq and Moin Khan accelerated well.

India's bowlers bowled well to restrict Pakistan to less than six runs an over, though. Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled with much more control than in the Asia Cup, and his reward - 3 for 27 in seven overs - was well deserved. Hearteningly, Sourav Ganguly took on the onus of being the fifth bowler, and was a handful to get away - the pitch was slow-paced, and Ganguly made sure the ball didn't come on to the bat, pitching it mostly on a good length. There was really no option to him bowling - the part-time spinners would have found it difficult to grip the wet ball, as Kumble did - but he should bowl more often, even when that contingency is not there. His bowling will be useful in England, where India play first the NatWest Challenge, and then the Champions Trophy.

The required run-rate at the start of India's innings was 5.88, a rate they'd have considered eminently gettable even for a 50-over chase. But, bizarrely, India began as if they needed seven an over. Ganguly was in a particularly sloggacious mood, even after Virender Sehwag was out, when he should have been settling down to bat through the innings. Perhaps the thinking was that with the pitch slowing and the bounce becoming variable, it would be difficult to score in the later overs, against an old ball. In that case, he might as well have asked Ajit Agarkar to come in as a pinch-hitter at No. 3, as Agarkar has done successfully in that past. With seven specialist batsman, though, it is hard to see why Ganguly would strive so hard to get off to a flyer.



It was heartening to see the fans enjoy themselves, but the field of play should be off bounds © Getty Images
India's middle order caved in after the openers were out - Dravid's run-out was probably the turning point. Razzaq, Afridi and Malik bowled well, shutting the barn door before the horse could get anywhere near it. The equine beast whimpered, and lay down to die. Knowing Ganguly, though, this horse will get up again and come out fighting against Australia. But now that they have lost a bonus point in this game, it will be exceedingly hard to reach the final.

One last point: how on earth could the security at the ground have been so lax? At the end of the game, the crowds surged on to the field to surround the players. Romantics will welcome such closeness between cricketers and spectators, but in these trying times, when both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly have been on terrorist hitlists, such lax security is just plain stupid. All it takes is one idiot somewhere, of whichever nationality, to take India-Pakistan rivalry into his own hands, and tragedy could result. The authorities at Amstelveen would do well to tighten up.

Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India. He writes the blog, 23 Yards, for this site.