Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Onus on batsmen to perform in Peshawar

Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 19:55 [IST]
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Peshawar:With the five-match One-day series interestingly poised at 1-1, India's fate in the third match in Peshawar on Friday against traditional rivals Pakistan will hinge on the performance of their famed batting line-up that failed in Rawalpindi.

Heavy security cordon has already been put in place in and around the Arbab Niaz Stadium, where visiting teams earlier had reservation in playing because of the city's proximity to Afghanistan.

Both the captains -- Sourav Ganguly and Inzamam-ul-Haq -- have realised that the team batting have the job of setting up an imposing total, which would be beyond the reach of the team batting second.

In-form Ashish Nehra's injury-enforced absence would further deplete a struggling Indian bowling attack, which may find it hard to contain the Pakistanis on yet another beautiful batting track. Though India would announce the final eleven on Friday, Irfan Pathan is likely to replace him.

Delhi seamer Amit Bhandari, who has joined the team in place of Nehra, is unlikely to be fielded straightaway. The path-breaking series has turned out to be a nightmare for the bowlers who have got very little assistance from the placid pitches in Karachi and Rawalpindi and the same fate awaits them in the remaining three matches.

But even a total of 349 has not looked safe on such batting friendly tracks, which means that the batsmen will have the onus to carry their team to safety.

Ganguly has predicted a "close series" and believes the batsmen, more than the bowlers, would have a much bigger role in the series considering the nature of tracks.

"The way this One-day series is going it will be very difficult for any side to contain the opposition between 275 and 300. Whichever side is bowling first or second should make sure that they don't give more than 280 runs. Once the score gets to 330 it's very difficult for the side batting second," Ganguly said.

"Unless something drastic happens this is going to be a series of big scores", he said referring to the four 300-plus scores made in the first two One-dayers of the five-match series.

The form of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who has just recovered from a groin injury, has been a cause of concern as he conceded a lot of runs in the first two matches and will have to pull up his socks in the remaining three matches.

The Indians were likely to retain newcomer Ramesh Powar in the team as apart from being an off-spinner he has the credentials of a handy batsman who could contribute some crucial runs down the order as he did in the last match.

Clearly, the Indian bowlers have their tasks cut out as they have to curb the run flow though it is going to be difficult as even the line and length balls have been despatched to the boundary.

It case is same with the Pakistani bowlers who have also given away a lot of runs.They will be relying on the tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar to do as much damage as possible with sheer speed. The "Rawalpindi Express" produced a fiery spell under floodlights in the last match at Rawalpindi returning with figures of 3-49 and the Pakistanis will be hoping for a similar show from their star bowler.

Taking into account the batting tracks, the home team have strengthened their batting order by recalling the left-handed Taufiq Umer who scored a blistering 104 in a warm-up match against the Indians in Lahore.

Paceman Iftikhar Rao and Misbah-ul-Haq have been omitted without playing in any of the two matches. Umer, the first choice opener in Test matches, was out of the One-day team due to the fine form of Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat. Farhat was, however, dropped to accommodate the dashing Shahid Afridi in the last match.

Afridi celebrated his return to international cricket by cracking a 58-ball 80. The form of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who crossed the 13,000-run milestone during his fine century-plus knock at Rawalpindi, must have pleased the Indian team management as well as millions of cricket fans back home.

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