India fly high on Saurav's infallible century

Written by: Syed Saba Karim
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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What a scintillating victory for India! It came in just when faith was ebbing, prayers were seeming ineffective and the image of the country as a cricketing nation had taken a thorough beating. The team played to win and this determination in their minds was writ large on their faces. Great knock by the captain himself, the sagacity of Saurav Ganguly and the partnerships he had with Dravid and the resilient Robin got them the mammoth total. The Pakistan team had a hard time chasing it as the Indian bowlers were geared up to earn this victory and not let the efforts of the batsmen go in vain. And so it was!

Sachin Tendulkar won the toss and elected to bat on a good dry batting wicket which would favour the batsmen. He could rightly discern that batting first would be advantageous due to the ideal conditions.

Both the openers held into cognizance the dire need for them to brake the shackles and guide India towards victory. And they began with a flourish. The first wicket partnership that yielded 88 runs laid the tracks for India's first win of this Series. The duo hit some splendid shots and their characteristic running between the wickets got the momentum in full swing. Sachin got out to a soft dismissal with the score at 88, while chasing one outside the off stump-- Razzaq was the gleeful bowler as he had done him in for the third time in a row.

Saurav took charge and forged ahead with certitude. With brilliant timing and placement he hit quite a few regulated shots and was quick in converting his ones' into twos'. The runs dried up a little with Sachin's departure as Rahul Dravid could not open up fast enough. Having shown a little vulnerability outside the off-stump over the past few innings that he has played he did seem to have settled down though. Just when we thought that we would see him unleashed, he was out to a well judged catch at deep mid wicket by Inzamam. His 32 did well to add to the total but he surely would be rueing that shot.

Soon followed Hrishikesh Kanitkar who surely gave the Indian fans another disappointing performance. He has had a couple of promising starts in the Test matches but could not consolidate his efforts. He miscued a slower ball off Saqlain gifting Inzamam his second catch in a row at deep mid wicket. He did not seem too steady on his feet while executing that shot.

His exit brought in a change in the batting order and in came the ever so reliable Robin Singh. Due to his credence and fighting for the side spirit he has, on most occasions he has come to rescue the side. Robin thwacked the ball a couple of times and in his 48 run partnership with Saurav, executed some orthodox shots. He has proved that he is a good thinking cricketer and the youngsters would do themselves a favour by learning from him. In wanting to get a couple of quick runs, as he was aware that Saurav is holding the other end quite firm, he perished-- caught and bowled Saqlain Mushtaq.

Robin's return to the pavilion must have brought some trepidations in the Indian dressing room as there was not much expectation the Captain could have from the rest of the players.

Thereafter we witnessed for a short spell some calculated bowling by the Pakistanis. Saqlain as expected came out with flying colours specially while bowling to the lower order batters. He has proved that he does not give too much away.With his attacking abilities as a leg-spinner too, he gets excruciating for the lower order batsmen as they cannot slog easily. He tactically tried to keep Saurav away from the strike as Saqlain was probably apprehensive of getting a beating--- Saurav did thrash him for precious 16 runs in one of his last overs while the other batsmen swung and missed.

There were some noteworthy isolated spells by Razzaq who is elusive in his method-- consequently got the batsmen thinking. Most of the other times the bowlers bowled either too full or too short enabling the batsmen to execute their shots and keep the scoreboard ticking.

The Pakistani fielding was erroneous. They fumbled on various occasions, not only allowed the ones' to be converted to twos' due to their stumblings but also gave away easy threes'. Their fallaciousness resulted in lack of co-ordination and they have only themselves to blame for this second defeat.

The major cause of this defeat of Pakistan has been this vexed question-- when are the Specialist batsmen going to deliver? How much longer will they have to rely on their lower order at crucial junctures of each match? A formidable batting order, all right-- but when will they get consistent? This paradox Wasim Akram and the Pakistani management have to resolve soonest possible.

India struck early working successfully to their strategy. Saeed Anwar got on to a Mohanty delivery mistiming it and finished almost playing with one hand. What a pathetic display by a specialist opener!

With the score a little over 20 Shahid Afridi decided to forget his captions expectations and trudged back to the dressing room after a good diving catch by Dighe.

Inzamam was expected to respect the exigency that his team had landed in. He looked desultory trying to manouever few runs. Having made 15, his incertitude got the getter of him and it was his dismissal that set Pakistan's declivity as they looked clearly falling behind in the game.

The only bright spark in the Pakistani batting was Azhar Mahmood. He clearly looked like Wisdom in action- taking his time, working in with his partners playing the top two bowlers of the opposition. He was perspicacious and with his fastest fifty of the series hopes of a Pakistani win were rekindled. Using his head, this cool cricketer played astutely all his shots, going slow on the yorkers that Srinath successfully bowled to him. He is a premeditated striker of the ball and that partnership he had with Razzaq was fraught with excitement with the duo blasting their way through. Pakistan needed 72 runs in the last ten overs-- a bit of restraint and judiciousness might have got them the game. This recklessness that this Pakistan team is displaying might cost them the series if they do not shake themselves out of their slumber and come up with some consistently brilliant performances.

The Indians did very well to take the Game away from the Pakistanis, accomplishing some great catches-- providing great fillip to the bowling.

Anil Kumble bowled with great fortitude also taking that very difficult catch to send back Razzaq. It was his cool temperament that assisted him to judge the ball as it was swerving and curving. Srinath too bowled with his sting and he has displayed all through this series that he is a great competitor.

With India earning it's first two points, celebrations I hope is not short lived. Tomorrow's game against Australia is of immense significance and a Win tomorrow looks more likely as the individual self confidence must have got restored and their faith in their potential to deliver as a Team must be on a high too.

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