One of the greatest Indo-Pak One-day series

Written by: Anil Kumble
Published: Friday, March 26, 2004, 12:30 [IST]
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Inzamam must be rueing his decision of inviting India to bat first after having had the option to choose. In any final, one always bats first unless the pitch conditions dictate otherwise. They say it is easy to be wise after the event but I had this over-riding feeling that Inzamam was better off in electing to bat on a pitch as placid as it was on Wednesday and an outfield which was lightning quick.

It has been one of the greatest series between the two arch-rivals of recent past in One-day cricket. What a way of resuming cricketing ties and how entertaining this Samsung One-day series has turned out to be!

India started well again with Sachin and Sehwag settling any nerves in the dressing room with their brief innings. Laxman looked very comfortable from the start and stamped his class with a brilliant century. He is a delight to watch when he bats and makes batting appear so simple and effortless with his timing. He usually makes a good start count and it was no different on Wednesday when he completed a classy century.

He is now a batsman sure of his methods, his ability, and his consistency of recent months has been outstanding. After a dream tour to Australia, he is making other teams suffer with his remarkable ability.

India managed to reach an identical score to that of Pakistan in the previous match, setting them a similar target. Irfan Pathan in a short career so far has proved to be a utility cricketer. He batted sensibly in the final overs and when given the new ball he did not disappoint the skipper for showing faith in him.

He swung the ball both ways and his normal pitching length was fuller than the other bowlers. Balaji provided the ideal start by removing the in-form Yasir Hameed. India, flexible in their bowling strategy, persevered with Irfan Pathan after his usual first six-over spell that got rid of another Pakistani batsman Younis Khan. In between, he accounted for Yousuf Youhana, not for the first time in the series, if I may add.

It always helps a spinner when the fast bowlers make early inroads and Kartik responded by sending back danger man Inzamam who was caught brilliantly by Sachin in the deep. It was an outstanding effort and Tendulkar made sure he did not trip on the rope or beyond it and his cool nerves removed the most dangerous batsman of the opposition.

Inzy has been a class act in this series and Pakistan has relied heavily on him to deliver goods. I guess Indians must have started to breathe easy after they were able to take out the Pakistan captain from the middle. It was a critical moment of the match.

Moin Khan alongwith Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Sami did give India a scare but the asking rate was too high and eventually it turned out to be a perfect finale to the Samsung Cup with the host nation displaying true spirit with fireworks lighting up the Lahore sky.

This victory will certainly give us the psychological advantage going into the Test series which now will be followed closely with renewed interest.

For any cricketer touring and performing in all Test playing nations gives immense pleasure and I am really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in the forthcoming encounters.

I believe the key to our success would yet again depend on the number of runs our batsmen are able to score in the Test series, which will then give the bowlers the cushion to take 20 wickets of the opposition. Nowadays with the international schedule being as they are - there is barely any time to rejoice. One has to start refocusing on the next match soon.

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