Now the One-day series is down to wire and Pakistan has once again shown they remain an inconsistent side.
India, on the other hand, have exhibited they remain, along with Australia, two teams which can come out of a tight spot. They did it in the NatWest Series and they did it in the Adelaide Test of the recent series Down Under. Australia too, like they have shown in the first two Tests of the series against Sri Lanka, can make a bad start but still recover quickly to win by big margins.
Pakistan is still to learn this art -- however, they need to do so quickly and in time before the big one on Wednesday. Shoaib Akhtar bowled genuinely quick in the first spell. But as we all saw, he was struggling for his pace and rhythm in subsequent spells. Apparently, the first spell took too much out of him. His line was poor also. He kept bowling at the leg-stump even when it was a predominantly off-side field.
The rest of the bowlers too failed to maintain pressure on the Indians. The profusion of no balls and wides meant Indians never had to worry about raising enough runs during an over, it was coming all the time!
It also meant extra balls that are an important asset when you are chasing a target in the vicinity of 300. No balls also cost Pakistan at least two wickets in the field. This was a sure recipe for disaster.
The bowling changes too left a lot to be desired. Shahid Afridi was brought in too late. India had lost too many wickets in the first 15 overs and Pakistan needed to quickly press their sixth bowler into the attack.
In the final overs, they needed their top bowlers to have overs in hand. But we saw off-spinner Shoaib Malik operating till late in the Indian innings. Indians just needed to milk him around to inch closer to their target and they did it with ease. The field placement too did not look as if much thought had gone into it. If Sourav Ganguly was wrong in removing his slips at a critical stage in Peshawar, Inzamam did the same in Lahore and we saw a profusion of runs conceded in the third man region.
It was also difficult to fathom whey there was no fielder behind point. Rahul Dravid took a heavy toll in this area, particularly against Shoaib Malik, and Indians must have been pleased with these bonus runs.
There were far too many boundaries conceded by Pakistan under lights. I can understand the batsmen making the most of field restrictions in the first 15 overs but the amount of boundaries conceded thereafter, begs an explanation.
Pakistan had one brilliant performer in their captain Inzamam-ul Haq who once again was in brilliant touch. The rest did not support him well enough though I am not criticising Younis Khan. He is not flashy or flamboyant but he is a man of tremendous utility in this line-up of Pakistan. I have just checked his figures in One-day cricket as against those of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif and Younis, to my surprise, has done better than them at number six or seven in the slot. He gets his 30s and 40s regularly whereas with others there is a hundred in one innings followed by six or seven failures. Younis, though, has still not mastered the art of finishing an innings.
I am also a little disappointed with the performance of Moin Khan. He is usually of tremendous value to the side but in this series he does not look his usual self. He is a great asset in putting pressure on the opposition both in front and behind the stumps. But he looks a little out of sorts, I hope it is not an issue of fitness with him.