Dhoni and Sehwag make merry as India go 2-0 up at Visakhapatnam
Bowlers from both teams are contemplating giving up their art when the one-day series is not yet into the half-way stage. If they feel that bowling at Kochi
was far more fruitful, it gives you an idea of what they went through. While India's batsmen made merry, posting a huge total of 356, the third highest for India
, Pakistan's chase fell well short of the target
. Yet there were a few innings by Pakistan's batsmen which threatened to make the game a little more even than it turned out to be.
In conditions similar to Kochi and on a wicket as flat as a dosai
, to use an Indian term rather than the cliched pancake metaphor, Ganguly won yet another important toss and obviously elected to bat. Once again, Tendulkar went early. But by then, Sehwag had taken off! And how! The bowlers were taken apart, without prejudice. The fifty came up in the sixth over, the hundred in the eleventh. Dhoni, promoted to #3, was scoring at close to a run-a-ball and yet seeing Sehwag bat would have given him a complex, for Sehwag was scoring at close to two runs a ball! His fifty came up in 26 deliveries and was another century was beckoning when he tried to clear mid-wicket and was well caught by Salman Butt. India were on 122/2 in the 14th over and Sehwag had made 74 in 40 balls.
The loss of Sehwag only meant that sanity returned to the proceedings as Ganguly fought hard to get back to form. One sparkling four off Razzaq hinted that he was getting back his touch, but he was cleaned up by Sami for 9. Dravid and Dhoni then did the right thing, by ensuring that the runs kept flowing without taking too many risks. They kept scoring around 5-6 runs per over as 150 came up in the 22nd over and 200 in the 29th. After Dhoni got past his first one-day century, the first for an Indian wicket-keeper in one-dayers whose name was not Rahul Dravid, in his fifth game, the runs began to flow as he went after the bowling
. His next 48 runs came off 35 deliveries and he got out attempting a huge heave. Meanwhile, Dravid, as efficient and unnoticeable as ever, got to yet another one-day fifty. But the wickets began to fall rapidly as Dravid's pull shot landed in the fielder's palms and Kaif was out first ball. A few blows from Yuvraj helped and when he got out, it seemed likely that India would not last the full fifty overs. They managed to do so, thanks to some lusty hitting by Zaheer and Balaji.
Chasing 357, Pakistan's hopes were pinned on Afridi giving them a rousing start, having been moved up to open the innings. He failed yet again, yorked by Nehra. Razzaq, who had been promoted to #3, and Butt took heavy toll of the poor bowling by Balaji and Nehra and Pakistan raced to 50 in 7 overs with Razzaq especially severe on Nehra. Then Butt played a poor shot, attempting to smack Nehra over the top and ended up skying the ball and Sehwag, who can do no wrong currently, took a very good catch. Zaheer kept things quiet with some good bowling and Ganguly brought in Tendulkar to bowl at this stage. Bowling around the wicket yet again, he ensured that Pakistan did not keep up with the required rate. Inzamam was looking dangerous, having clouted Harbhajan for a huge six, but Razzaq's indecisiveness proved costly for Pakistan as Inzamam was run out for 16.
Razzaq tried to make up for his poor running and in the company of Youhana, put the innings back on track with nearly a half-century partnership made at a quick pace. He was brilliantly held by Dhoni down the legside off Yuvraj Singh, having made 88. But he had slowed down substantially after reaching his fifty and that definitely affected Pakistan's charge. Shoaib Malik didnt last too long either and holed out to long-off, giving Yuvraj his second wicket. At the other end, Youhana was batting brilliantly, hitting sixes and fours with effortless ease. But he was running out of partners as Mohammad Hafeez, who batted well at Kochi, pulled a half-tracker straight to the fielder. At this stage, Pakistan were 222/6 requiring 8.2 runs per over to win. Youhana continued to spank the bowling around, getting to his fifty in 44 deliveries and accelerating after he got to the milestone. Ultimately the pressure got to him and he was out caught at cover off Nehra for 71 in just 56 deliveries.
Kamran Akmal tried to get the rest of the tailenders to bat with him and they stuck around for a while as he threatened to bring Pakistan back into the game. He was last out for 41 in just 28 deliveries but Pakistan had lost the momentum due to Razzaq's inability to kick on after he reached his half-century and Inzamam's runout. Nehra ended up with 4/72 while Yuvraj continued the part-time bowlers' dream run with 3/55. The next match is at Jamshedpur
, Dhoni's home ground. If he can perform even half as well as he did today, the crowd would have got its money's worth.