Centurion: Key duels to look for during the World Cup clash between Pakistan and India at SuperSport Park on Saturday:
Sachin Tendulkar vs Wasim Akram: Sparks are bound to fly when the worlds best One-day bowler faces the best batsman at the start of the innings. Wasim may not have anything left to prove in the game but wants to bid goodbye to cricket after the World Cup by helping his team defeat India for the first time at the World Cup. Tendulkar, the tournament's highest scorer with 371 runs, hopes to continue in the same vein and give India a flying start. The first 15 overs will considerably influence the course of the game, for Wasim is the master of shrewd variations capable of rattling the Indian top order in his first spell. India will depend largely on Tendulkar to neutralise Akram's efficacy, for he is now looking more comfortable after regaining his opening slot. The Indian batting star may not be as aggressive as he was a few years ago, but is innovative enough to take advantage of the fielding restrictions in the opening 15 overs. Wasim is Pakistan's leading wicket-taker against India with 60 victims in 47 matches. Tendulkar remains, not surprisingly, India's highest run-getter against Pakistan with 1,335 from 43 games.
Saurav Ganguly vs Shoaib Akhtar: If spared by Wasim, India could still be stung by Shoaib Akhtar, the world's fastest bowler after breaking the 100-mph barrier earlier in the tournament. Shoaib forms a fearsome twosome with Wasim which gives batsmen no respite from both ends. Ganguly, the elegant left-hander, is tentative against genuine pace, and Shoaib is well aware of that. But the Indian captain's return to form with a century against Namibia augurs well for the team. Ganguly's form will be crucial for India because he has the temperament and shots to succeed, having scored more than 1,000 runs against Pakistan with two centuries.
Inzamam-ul-Haq vs Harbhajan Singh: Inzamam, Pakistan's premier batsman, appears to have lost his appetite for runs after shedding weight, having made just 10 runs in four innings so far. But he remains one of the finest stroke players in the modern game capable of dominating both pace and spin. Like Tendulkar, Inzamam has the knack of working the ball in the gaps. Inzamam has a reputation to defend since he is Pakistan's second-highest scorer against India after veteran opener Saeed Anwar, having made 1,449 with two centuries in 44 matches. His duel with star Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh during the middle overs will be a match within a match. Inzamam has often driven the spinners to the brink of despair with his excellent footwork and timing. Harbhajan will be the key in India's scheme of things as he has the variations to keep the batsmen guessing. He has the ability to keep pressure from one end, forcing rival batsmen to take risks from the other. This will be the turbanator's first One-dayer against Pakistan, reputed to play spin better than Australia or South Africa.
Javagal Srinath vs Saeed Anwar: The two ageing stars are looking to bow out of cricket with a bang and what better stage than an India-Pakistan game to do it. Indian seamer Srinath may not have Shoaib's menacing pace, but relies on his experience to provide crucial early breakthroughs. He is bowling remarkably well in the twilight of his career, having spared India's bowling blushes on the recent tour of New Zealand. On his old shoulders rests India's hopes of containing Pakistani stroke-makers. Srinath is only other bowler in the Indian team besides Anil Kumble to bag more than 300 One-day wickets. Anwar has always been a thorn in India's side since making a magnificent 194 at Madras in 1997, which remains the highest individual score in One-day cricket. The left-hander was recalled for the World Cup to provide experience at the top of the order but has failed to find form. The born-again Muslim, who sports a W G Grace- like beard, hopes he will rectify matters against India. Copyright AFP 2001