Smashed cover drives, square ones and powerful pulls, were all featured, as they took it to 88 off 95 balls. Tendulkar was out fishing at a wide, full one and his disappointment was clear. He had played a conventional knock, driving when they overpitched and cutting/gliding with good effect as well. The shots were about to flow freely and he found himself in the dressing room.
Three things happened then, that shaped the innings' outcome. The Pakistan bowling attack bowled really well to contain the Indians in an important period, after the sprightly start. Razzaq and Mahmood operated well together to stem the flow and restore some belief that their team may be able to hold India. Saqlain followed up also, with some quality attacking spinning, especially at the end to further restrict a burgeoning total.
Secondly, the Indians consolidated a little too cautiously, pacing themselves conservatively, keeping wickets in hand. Dravid ate up too many balls while once again he threatened to regain form and other than Robin Singh's enterprise, the rest were there merely to enjoy Ganguly's expertise. 141 runs from 144 balls, was the third, which was pure entertainment. He began the dominance early and without his late flurry against all bowlers the score would not have reached the eventual 267. Ganguly opened up the offside many times in his favorite ways, he improvised cleverly against Saqlain and made exceptional shot play look so easy. He was fatiguing visibly, but he produced the late innings burst, as well as running sharply, when his side needed it desperately.
He certainly inspired his quickies, who began well, obtaining bounce, to go with tight control, as Pakistan lost two early wickets again. Srinath has been effective all series with the new ball, taking wickets when the bowlers are supposed to attack, allowing the more defensive options to succeed later.
To the team's demise it has been those options, which haven't created or maintained necessary pressure on any line-up. This game proved the opposite and the Pakistan middle order wilted under the consistent tight bowling of Prasad, Singh and Kumble, all finding a little in the pitch, to assist their execution. Kumble's delight, at the LBW decision of Moin Khan being granted, told me that it had been a tough summer for him on several fronts. His subtle spin variations are at their most dangerous when bounce is variable and he hasn't had those conditions at all this season, making wickets few and far between. If that isn't enough, several umpiring calls which were 50/50 in the summer seemingly went against him at times when he needed something.
His smile was back and I for one hope it stays for a long time. His four scalps when it mattered, got India on top and cemented their status there, as well. Azhar Mahmood however had no regard for India's joy and he smashed the series' fastest 50 (34 balls) in a display, which masked his youthfulness.
He was in total command when everyone else battled for timing and it was Mahmood who got the equation to 70 runs off the last 10 overs with Pakistan in the driver's seat.
Called upon for another effort, Prasad, Srinath and Kumble ripped the initiative back from Akram's men with fantastic nerve under pressure. Mahmood, suffering lower leg cramps holed out to mid-wicket (Kanitkar) and the first win was India's.
'Give it everything ,' is what India did from ball one and they finally looked as if they wanted to be in the thick of things. Surprise, surprise, that attitude translated into success. Against the Australians, will be the perfect classroom to test just how deeply that attitude runs.