Pak tailenders clinch victory

Written by: Ian Healy
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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I cannot remember the non-local fixture of the triangular series in Australia, now called the Carlton and United Series, being so eagerly anticipated by the cricket world or the Australian public. Two talented sides both with an obvious desire to play attractive cricket, competing away from home and away from the Australians who have dominated them, so far this Summer. No one, (live spectator, radio listener or television viewer) could finish too unhappy with the eventual proceedings, of another bowler oriented fixture.

On the wicket, which produced a dominant bowling display one day earlier, Tendulkar won the toss and wanted to bat. The surface was not blamed for the low scoring by either side yesterday rather the hard surface producing fast bounce which wasn't coped with, by anyone. With slightly less moisture and still rock hard in nature, this wicket was suited to consistent bounce, even if it was to be fast and Tendulkar decided to bowl in the evening change over period, in the hope of utilizing the best bowling conditions.

The top order tension was again evident with neither V V S Laxman nor Ganguly willing to play aggressively to counter the useful swing of Akram and Younis, again given the new ball ahead of Akhtar. The Indian intent became clear with convention maintained at the top of the order, instead of pressing the accelerator right from the start, when Tendulkar opted to bat at 4,splitting up the formidable pairing with Ganguly. This decision not only gave Laxman his chance to continue good form but protected the batting genius from the only real danger period with the swing and bounce making it very difficult for those explosive beginnings, here in Brisbane.

This time however, it achieved little, due to the sluggish start (0-7 off 6 overs) and when Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Kanitkar were back in the shed the score read only 77(20th over). Laxman caught at regulation square leg attempting to release his shackles (9 from29), Dravid edged a wide one to Moin, Tendulkar bowled by a beauty from the deceptive pace of Razzaq as the tempo looked like lifting and Kanitkar edged a Saqlain offie behind, for 0(2).

Knowing the value of even a decent total, Ganguly and Singh set about to re-establish some sort of a platform for the tail to add to and indeed the bowlers to defend more comfortably, just as the Pakistanis did last night. Readjusting the team's expectations when things aren't going to plan is crucial and the partnership traveled solidly without undue risks accepting that a total of around 200 would be an achievement. Ganguly out to a clever first ball slowie from Akhtar (2nd spell) for 61(101) and Singh holing out to long on from Saqlain for 50(84), leaving Kumble to get something else from the tail.

The Pakistan side would have been well pleased to limit the strong Indian line up and they all shared the spoils of their skillful all-round display. A tight start, the important scalp of Tendulkar and consistent pressure with the ball and in the field had them in good shape, for their batsmen to improve on yesterday's feeble start. Akhtar produced another tight spell in his comeback double header cleverly mixing his pace especially as he tired, to return the best figures of 3 for 19 from 8 overs. Saqlain was the only other multiple wicket taker with 2 for 34 from 9 overs, keeping the total to a very chaseable 195.

One-day games are quite often won by intensity alone and the look about the Indians as they entered their bowling arena was all industry and spirit. An early storm to weather as Anwar took to Srinath but the first ball dismissal of dynamo Afridi , caught at slip was the first of many fightbacks, as they regularly claimed vital wickets. Two which really hurt Pakistan were both from the deceptively quick action of Agarkar, who completely beat Ijaz and Inzamam with fast off cutters speared in, straight at the stumps. Srinath followed his wicket of Anwar, caught at point by Singh ,with another major blow, soon after. Dravid created one of the match's turning points with a magnificent diving catch to reel in a pull shot one handed, off lower order dangerman Moin Khan, for the score to be 6/71. A 49 run partnership between Youhanna (63) and Akram (24)was broken by Ganguly who had the Pakistan skipper cautiously chopping on to his off stump, leaving Youhanna to finesse the tail. That he did well with Saqlain before Srinath bamboozled him with a fantastic slower ball dragging a slow, thick edge for the score to be 8/153. Srinath, even though he went for 10 in his final over, impressed by taking 4 wickets.

Waqar refused to accept that his team's cause was lost, a trait he often carries when the ball is in his hand and Saqlain backed it to the hilt, smashing a straight six similar to one off McGrath yesterday. Chipping safely over the infield, finding the ropes more frequently and running well, all shifted pressure back to India. Defending six balls with just six runs to win was now the task of Prasad, a man with an effective slower ball but was his nerve going to allow him to employ it?

Waqar (13) and Saqlain (27) got it to a tie with 1 ball to bowl! Prasad then bowled a beauty. A bouncing leg cutter through to the keeper, who after a quality debut with the gloves missed the stumps, as the bye was, attempted by Waqar. 47 runs from 37 balls by those two batsmen got Pakistan home, to set up the rest of this tournament delightfully.

Last minute player of the match became Yousef Youhanna for his 63 while the Pakistan tail worked splendidly with him for the second time in two matches. I thought the leadership of both sides was good again, both employing sound bowling options when required and if anything, the Pakistani batting prospered a little better, when the pressure was at it's hottest. Senior players, all day lead from the front with true fight and aggression, which is what truly excites me about the rest of this Carlton and United Series.

(Procam International)

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