Asia square series in Durban

A green Durban pitch greeted the two captains at the toss before the second match of the Afro-Asian Cup, but that did not deter Inzamam-Ul-Haq from electing to bat, and it proved an excellent decision.

One of the most anticipated moments of the series had been the opening pairing of Virender Sehwag and Shahid Afridi for the Asia XI, but it proved largely a non-event as Afridi played a trademark innings, beginning with a six off Heath Streak and falling next ball. Sehwag and Sangakkara then came together and forged a lengthy second wicket stand to put Asia back on track. The entry into the attack of Kenyan all-rounder Thomas Odoyo heralded the wicket of Sehwag, but Sangakkara continued on his way, punishing the bowling on a surprisingly docile wicket and bringing up a classy half-century. Odoyo struck again, removing the Sri Lankan keeper-batsman, but once more the Africans couldn’t take wickets regularly enough to get on top, and Youhana and Jayawardene pushed Asia up towards a formidable total. Jayawardene brought up the second half-century of the innings, and despite a flurry of wickets at the end of the innings and a second excellent spell from Odoyo, Asia’s captain Inzamam-Ul-Haq guided them to a strong first innings total of 267.

Shoaib Akhtar began strongly for Asia with the ball, and could have had either of the openers out on more than one occasion. It was Zaheer Khan though who got the first breakthrough, when a booming drive from Mark Boucher went straight to Jayawardene in the covers. Africa continued to struggle with the bowling, and the second wicket came when Dippenaar swung hard outside off and offered Jayawardene another catch, this a spectacular diving effort in the slips. Wickets continued to fall regularly after the opening bowlers left the attack, with Rudolph edging a Nehra outswinger, and Abdul Razzaq picked up the ball in his own follow-through and ran out Ashwell Prince. AB De Villiers finally found a partner to bat with, and he and Justin Kemp kept African hopes alive with a careful stand of 46, before De Villiers became the second run-out victim of the innings. It was left to the Kenyans to provide the spark for Africa once again, as veteran batsman Steve Tikolo came to the crease. By this stage the spinners were doing most of the bowling, and Tikolo in particular handled them with ease, soaking up the strike against the dangerous Muralitharan and scoring easily off him, and preventing Shahid Afridi from keeping things tight at the other end. Justin Kemp fell for 38 after yet another run-out, and the African captain Shaun Pollock joined Tikolo with almost 100 runs still needed. Tikolo launched into attack, as he and Pollock flayed the bowling in a brief but lethal partnership, and the required rate dropped down below a run a ball as the final 10 overs approached. In the end, Muralitharan had the last laugh against Tikolo, as he attempted to hit him to the boundary one time too many and could only scoop it up in the air and present Sehwag with a catch. Despite the loss of Boje early in the 41st, Africa still weren’t done, and Pollock and Streak added another 42 for the 9th wicket, keeping hope alive the whole time. The required rate began to get away from them though, and some brilliant bowling from Zaheer Khan proved too much for Pollock, as he was bowled with a yorker, and Streak was caught by Jayawardene on the boundary to end the innings 17 runs short.

Asia have now levelled the series at one game apiece before the decider tomorrow at the same ground.

Score Summary
Asia XI – 7/267 (50)
Kumar Sangakkara 61 (70), Mahela Jayawardene 52 (72)
Thomas Odoyo 3/45 (10), Heath Streak 2/64 (9)

Africa XI – 250 (49.2)
Steve Tikolo 43 (43), AB De Villiers 39 (67)
Zaheer Khan 3/43 (9.2), Shoaib Akhtar 2/50 (10)

Asia XI win by 17 runs.

CricketWeb Player of the Match
Kumar Sangakkara – 61 (70), 1 catch.

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