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    April 15, 2005

    Afridi blasts rapidfire century as Pakistan take the lead at Kanpur

    The one-day series has more or less mirrored the way the test series progressed. India held the upper hand on all but one day at Mohali and won convincingly at Calcutta only for Pakistan to hand out a thrashing at Bangalore. In the one-dayers, India won easily at Kochi and Vishakapatnam. Pakistan then turned the series around with an easy win at Jamshedpur and held their nerve at Ahmedabad. India's woes had already multiplied manifold with Ganguly's ban, his appeal, the appointment of the appeal commissioner and the needless confusion over whether he would play.

    Despite all what the Indian team management would have liked us to believe, the momentum was well and truly with Pakistan. Today they cashed in on an inept performance by India's top order and some hopeless bowling to post another convincing win, this time at Kanpur, to go 3-2 up in the series with the last one-dayer to be played at New Delhi, hopefully.

    Pakistan's heroes were a couple of blokes who've harassed India repeatedly in this series, Naved-ul-Hassan and Shahid Afridi. India were reduced to 26/3 by the 7th over thanks to some superb bowling by Rana and stupid batting by Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dhoni. Yuvraj then came in and crashed four boundaries to suggest that he'd help pull some of those chestnuts out of the fire but besides that, he did little and was cleaned up by a Razzaq delivery which kept a little low. At 59/4 and the game just over an hour old, it was left to Dravid and Kaif to do something about the derailed train. For the next 25 overs, they eliminated the risky shots and added nearly 140 runs, with a lot of singles and boundaries every now and then, especially off the part-time bowlers.

    The total reached 100 in the 28th over and 150 nine overs later. Kaif got to his half-century first and was followed by Dravid in the same over. The runs started to flow a little more easily with both batsmen sweeping very well against the spinners. The run-rate had reached 4.5 when Kaif pulled a short one from Razzaq straight to mid-wicket. He was out for 78, made in just 88 deliveries. In came Dinesh Mongia, making a one-day appearance after India's ignominious loss to Bangladesh last year. He batted superbly, scoring at a rapid pace with the help of two sixes to ensure that there was some sort of run-rate acceleration during the slog overs. The 200 came up in the 44th over but India only managed to capitalize on two poor overs, the 46th (Arshad Khan) and 48th (Iftikhar Rao) yielding 15 and 12 runs respectively. Dravid was run out in the last over for a superb 86, taking up 115 deliveries. India had managed to reach 249, which would have been around 49 more than they would have settled for when the score was 59/4.

    I have no idea why Dhoni is sent in at #3 every game. I'd have thought that having someone like him, who can belt the ball, gives the team a surprise weapon, whereby they could promote him to #3 or #4 in the odd match or two when a flying start is required. If he comes in at #3 every game, there's absolutely no surprise element in it, even if he does turn up without his dreadlocks. I'd like to believe that had the batting order been a little more flexible, Dhoni could have come in around the 45th over and done a better job along with Mongia compared to what Dravid did, because clearly Dravid has never been a slogger, despite his antics less than two years ago. Moreover, the kind of conditions these games are being played in, Dravid would have obviously been tired in addition to being aware of the need to go through various arithmetic tables during the lunch break which would have told him the maximum number of minutes each of Zaheer, Balaji, Harbhajan and Kumble could take to go through the motions, err ... overs.

    Pakistan's reply was in abeyance for all of thirteen balls. For the next twelve overs, it bordered on what Manjrekar wrote in a column in a previous edition of Wisden Asia Cricket, badtameez. Salman Butt was almost a non-entity, as much as Kaluwitharana had been around nine years ago, as Afridi took control from the third over onwards. It was maniacal, impudent and extremely thrilling to watch as he first took apart Balaji with a sequence of 6 2lb 4 6 4. Salman Butt, clearly overawed, batted out a maiden over. Enter Anil Kumble, recalled after a while, to replace Balaji. Exit Anil Kumble, after conceding 23 runs, including three sixes. The game was over at this point with the rest of the proceedings primarily to focus on if Afridi would beat his own record to reach a century. He got to his fifty off 20 deliveries, even as he turned his attention to Zaheer, who had thus far bowled his 3 overs for only 5 runs and belted him for a few fours and sixes as well, just to ensure that he abided by the Indian Constitution's promise of equality for all.

    Dinesh Mongia came in to bowl the 11th over, and Harbhajan had not bowled yet, and after accepting the same treatment (6 4 6), he had Afridi caught at short fineleg by Yuvraj, only to see the umpire declare that it was a no-ball. The umpire might as well have said it was a "no-contest" and stopped the proceedings. Pakistan reached 100 in that over. In spite of the treatment he got from Afridi, including being swatted to bring up 200 sixers in one-dayers, Zaheer was the best bowler once again conceding 35 runs in 7 overs, including 28 from three overs. Harbhajan's introduction finally got Afridi out bowled, but he had reached his century off just 45 balls. A few million Indian fans sighed in relief. Salman Butt, clearly overawed by his opening partner's exploits, promptly got out in the next over and now the optimists started wondering about a spectacular collapse. Youhana and Shoaib Malik just kept the scoreboard moving, playing some totally boring cricket. Their partnership of 58 came in nearly 16 overs, Afridi would have made those runs in six overs. Youhana was out to a breathtaking diving catch by Kaif, running back from his position at cover. Inzamam came in and hit a few boundaries early on to show 'em who the boss was. Tendulkar, brought on to bowl quite late in the game, struck almost immediately when he had Shoaib Malik caught by Zaheer at mid-off. Younis Khan then speeded up the proceedings with a flurry of boundaries and was out bowled, to Sehwag. A game that should really have been done and dusted with in 35 overs was finally over in the 43rd over. I suppose that means India can claim a moral victory.

    The man(iac) of the match award was obviously Afridi's. The Indian team management and the BCCI have denied reports that Javagal Srinath is being approached to stop being an arm-chair critic and join the team for the New Delhi one-dayer.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 6:46 pm |
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    1 sledge(s):

    Just one point...the ODI series is 'not' progressing the test match way. Indians are a better test team, played better cricket most of the time (remember that last day in Mohali was still Pak struggling to avoid defeat, praise them but remember the reality) except for one horribly wrong approach related judgement on final day in Bangalore lead to their defeat in a match which, at best, they could have won, and at normal they should have drawn.

    But in the ODIs it was different. Pak had a slow start to the series, the Indian batting, as usual, was great. But their bowling was horrid throughout. Pak lost match one for their own faults, second through a tight chase (Indian batting better). But since then they have constantly been better in both batting and bowling. No doubt the Indian 'batting' alone is better than theirs, but its the combination with bowling which is letting them down.

    Two reasons : for past few years the Indian ODI team has not been great at home (or subcontinent). Maybe the composition is better suited to more sporty pitches....not sure.
    And the Pak team has more ODI match winners specially in these sub-continent conditions.

    By Blogger worma (15 Apr 2005, 7:21:00 pm)  

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