With an exciting 98 runs victory in the second encounter against the archrivals India at Sharjah, Pakistan has bounced back to its dynamic fighting form. The team appeared having under gone a magical transformation in all departments of the game. For some time past, the team had not given such a brilliant display of its skill, form and fitness. It had relied on the bowling arm while the batting arm remained wrapped in splints. The batting having clicked admirably, the team achieved the glorious triumph, essentially required to push Pakistan into the finals of the Coca Cola Cup.
Consistency of performance being the hallmark of success, it was also a personal triumph for Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousaf Youhana, Younis Khan and Waqar Younis. Notwithstanding the contribution of other members of the team, the four of them played with exceptional tenacity, courage and will power. Despite Pakistan's overall failure against Sri Lanka at home, these players had individually performed exceedingly well. Their form was thus instrumental in achieving a great victory against India that also served as sweet revenge for a defeat in the first match. The victory is also expected to inspire and encourage the Pakistan team for the coming encounters.
Pakistan's score of 272 for the loss of only three wickets has so far being the highest inning total of the tournament. With a prolific century (121 not out) by Inzamam-ul-Haq, it must also be the most exciting. Inzamam dominated the field hitting fours and sixes all over the ground. Many centuries have been scored in Sharjah before, but the thrill of Inzamam's ton, will be remembered for long by the cricket fans, especially those who saw it live in the stadium.
In the earlier matches, Pakistan having failed to pile up a big total could not possibly dictate terms to its opponents. Its total of 146 against India in the first match was so disappointing that India wrapped up the match with a convincing win by 5 wickets. A target of 273 to win this match was big enough to put India under pressure.
India opened the inning with a mountain like target and were devastated when they lost three of its batsmen, Ganguly (7), Tendulkar (10) and Joshi (3) for a meagre 25 runs on the board. The Pakistani speed merchants Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, ably supported by off-spinner Arshad Khan kept the Indian batsmen under such pressure that they could not score runs freely. The loss of first three wickets followed by the fall of stalwarts like Dravid (29) and Azharuddin (20) had almost crippled the team.
It is rightly said, "Sachin Tendulkar is half the Indian team". With his fall at the very start, the Indians were demoralized to the extent that they almost lost the heart to fight. For a change, Pakistan's fielding was superb, not allowing the Indians to break out. The revived and rejuvenated Waqar Younis (5 for 31) was hurling thunder bolts so effectively that the Indians took no liberties for the fear of losing more wickets. A stage arrived when considering their inability to achieve the target, they abandoned the fight. In their quota of 50 overs, they were only able to score 174 runs for the loss of 9 wickets.
It was after a long time that the Pakistan team clicked in all departments of the game. Its batting, which remained as brittle crystal glass, in the previous matches, rose to its natural heights. Never in the past, the fielding was as impenetrable. While Waqar Younis bowled with fantastic speed and accuracy, Moin Khan held some brilliant catches. He also led the team from the front encouraging the players at all stages of the game. Let us hope that Pakistan repeats such performance in the last league match against South Africa also.
Sharjah Cricket Stadium