Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- India will be keen to plug bowling loopholes

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 20:17 [IST]
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Rawalpindi:After having allowed the hosts to "come too close for comfort" in the thrilling Karachi One-dayer, India will be keen to plug their bowling loopholes to avoid a repeat as they attempt to consolidate their lead in the second match of the One-day cricket series against archrivals Pakistan in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.

The Indians pulled off a sensational five-run victory in Karachi to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series but not before they were made to sweat by a determined opposition.

The visitors would also get a boost by the expected return of VVS Laxman, who missed the first match, but a decision on the in-form batsman will be taken just before the start of the day-night match.

Sourav Ganguly and his men would not like a repeat of that nerve-wracking experience and have already started working on improving their bowling in the middle overs as pointed out by coach John Wright.

Wright had a few words with the young bowlers on Sunday and called on them to put up a more disciplined performance.

"We bowled well in the first 15 overs but the middle overs were a problem. It is an area where we have to improve. We cannot concede more than seven runs in the middle overs."

The coach hoped his bowlers would be able to learn from their mistakes and come up with a more inspiring performance in what he described as a "key game" for both sides.

"It is a key game for both the sides. Some of the nerves may have gone out. Both the sides had a chance to look at the strength and weaknesses and it should be a close series," Wright said.

The bowling might be a problem but the Indian batting was simply sublime in Karachi. Wright said Laxman, who had to sit out the opening encounter with a stiff left knee, was expected to feature in the eleven.

"We anticipate Laxman to be ready. He is having no problems while batting but fielding is a problem. We will see how he does tomorrow before taking a decision. We are hoping that he will be fully fit," Wright said.

If Laxman regains full fitness, he will come back into the side in place of Tamil Nadu middle-order batsman Hemang Badani for the day-night match to be held at the Rawalpindi Stadium amidst tight security arrangements.

The Pakistani camp has also received a shot in the arm with paceman Shabbir Ahmed, who was ruled out of the first match due to a hand injury, expected to be fit for the match, giving more sting to their famed bowling line up.

"Shabbir is doing well and we expect him to be fit. He should be eligible for selection," Pakistan team manager Haroon Rashid said.

The Pakistani bowling also did not live upto expectations in Karachi and the large number of extras through wides and no balls gave the Indians nearly five more overs to bat but Rashid said the bowlers will show more discipline in the remaining four matches.

"We have discussed all our weak points. The bowlers know that they did not do a good job. We will improve our all round game and play with more composure," Rashid said.

The absence of a quality sixth bowler in the team proved costly for Pakistan as captain Inzamam-ul Haq had nobody to fall back upon after his frontline bowlers were clobbered all over the park.

But the Pakistani batting department, perceived as their weak link due to lack of experience, flourished in Karachi and Inzamam very nearly pulled off an incredible victory with a scintillating knock of 104-ball 122.

With the tracks expected to favour the batsmen right through the series, the tour is fast turning out to be a nightmare for bowlers who have given away plenty of runs in the warm-up match in Lahore and the Karachi One-dayer.

Even the 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar conceded a lot of runs and the high number of wides and no balls only compounded his misery. With Shoaib playing on home turf on Tuesday, the pressure will be all the more on the speedster.

The Indians will be relying heavily on their star-studded batsmen to again deliver the goods on Tuesday as a 2-0 lead will put considerable pressure on the home team when they go in to the third match in Peshawar on March 19.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag will again look to give a flying start while Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif have proved their ability to tear any bowling attack to shreds on their day.

About 5000 security personnel have been deployed for the match and the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, where the teams are staying, has also been turned into a fortress.

Like in Karachi, all the tickets for this match have been sold out well in advance and the packed house can expect another edge-of-the-seat thriller between two great rivals.

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