Pak pip India in a cliffhanger

Published: Monday, January 10, 2000, 5:30 [IST]
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Saurav Ganguly
AFP Photo
Anil Kumble
AFP Photo
Yousuf Youhanna
AFP PhotoMillions of hearts belonging to the cricket world would have skipped many a beat on Monday when India and Pakistan waged an exciting battle in the three-nation ODI Series at Brisbane.Needing one run to win off the last ball, Pakistan got the winning run through an "overthrow". Saqlain Mushtaq missed the last ball and ran. Wicket-keeper Sameer Dighe threw the ball at the stumps. The ball missed the target.

Saqlain and his ninth wicket partner Waqar Younis got five runs including four runs through that overthrow. For the second day in succession, bowlers dominated the proceedings. On Sunday, Australia, chasing 185, lost the match to Pakistan, and, today, Pakistan, needing 195, clinched the issue by two wickets off the last ball. It rose from a disastrous 71 for six in 21.4 overs. Today, the Indian bowlers did a remarkable job while defending a not-too-impressive total of 195.

Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar performed like "wicket-taking" bowlers. Venkatesh Prasad maintained a nagging length to keep the batsmen quiet. Anil Kumble, who played a passive role during the three-Test Series, got into his characteristic aggressive mood. Sourav Ganguly played the role of the fifth bowler with admirable enthusiasm. But nothing went right for India during the last six overs. Having reduced Pakistan to 153 for eight in 42.5 overs, the Indian bowlers and fielders just could not disturb the concentration of a stout-hearted Saqlain-Waqar pair.

Pakistan maintained a poor over-rate when it was fielding, and, so it got only 49 overs to chase the target. After 21 overs, Pakistan was on 82 for six. At that juncture the bowling figures of Indian bowlers read: Srinath 8-0-35-3; Agarkar 6-0-24-2; Venkatesh Prasad 6-0-8-0; Kumble 3-0-9-1. That would speak eloquently of the brilliant fashion in which they were responding to the plans of skipper Tendulkar.

But in the end fortune favoured the brave Saqlain-Waqar pair. Pakistan opener Shahid Afridi left in the first over itself (c Laxman b Srinath). Then Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam, Saeed Anwar and Abdul Razzaq all perished after promising a lot. The fielders too played their respective role commendably. The catch taken by Rahul Dravid to dismiss Moin Khan (71 for six) was spectacular. He dived to his right to take the blinder. Wasim Akram and Yousuf Youhana (63 in 85 balls) fought gallantly to raise Pakistan hopes.

Ganguly brought an end to this association. He saw Akram playing the ball on to his stumps (120 for 7 in 33.3). Youhana, who looked a hero in every sense, was the next man to go (153 for 8). A slower one from Srinath foxed him and Dighe took the catch. Then came the gritty display by Saqlain and Waqar which climaxed in the "overthrow". Earlier India ran into trouble against the varied Pakistan attack and went reeling to 77 for 4 in 20.3 overs. The idea of sending V V S Laxman as Ganguly's opening partner failed. Laxman left at 15. Dravid (8), Tendulkar (13) and Hrishikesh Kanitkar (0) failed to provide the needed support to Ganguly. They all succumbed to the enormous pressure applied by the Pakistan bowlers. However, Robin Singh (50) batted with cricumspection.

He and Ganguly (61) added 66 runs for the fifth wicket to lend some respectability to India's innings. All Pakistan bowlers were as brilliant as they were on Sunday against Australia. The experience of Wasim Akram and Waqar, the brilliance of Shoaib, Razzaq and Saqlain kept the hopes of Pakistan alive throughout. Tuesday is the rest day. On Wednesday, India will play Australia in Melbourne.

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