Dravid and Pathan inspire India

Irfan Pathan was back on target with the ball, and his influence helped India level their 2-game series against Pakistan at 1-1. The seamer claimed the important wickets of Imran Farhat (8) and Shahid Afridi (0) to rock the Pakistani top order in the chase of 270 for victory. The strike placed Pakistan on the back foot, and though they recovered from 45/3, the demands of the target proved too mighty.

It seems like just yesterday Pathan was bowling in rather indifferent fashion against the same opposition, and indeed it was. The teams played each other for the second time in as many days, and India avenged a 6-wicket defeat with victory by 51 runs.

The road to success began as Rahul Dravid won the toss and elected to bat. He then proceeded to lead from the front and was the main culprit in a score of 269/5. His 92 earned the Man of the Match award.

Dravid featured in an opening partnership of 138 with Virender Sehwag, who returned to form with a score of 73. Sehwag struck 10 fours and a six in his 83-ball effort, and took a crucial step toward arresting his one-day batting slump.

Though he was bowled by a sharp offering from Shahid Afridi, his captain soldiered on in the manner of which he has built his reputation. Dravid played in a controlled fashion, dispatching anything he deemed too straight and intent on building partnerships rather than playing shots. With Dhoni he added a further 90 runs, and was dismissed a tragic 8 runs short of his hundred.

He faced 116 balls and hit 10 fours, providing much needed stability to the Indian line-up from the opener’s slot. Dhoni (59) neither tended to the side of explosiveness, but instead maintained the scoring rate without erring to the side of risk.

The difficulties in acceleration that the top order endured were then banished to distant memory by the figure of Yuvraj Singh. The left-hander livened up the tail-end of the innings with a cameo of 24 from 10 balls, including 3 consecutive fours and a six. The innings took India comfortably past 250, but more importantly, it carried the momentum with India into the second half of the match.

That confidence was consolidated first by Pathan, his 100th wicket being that of Farhat, albeit due to a poor call by umpire Rudi Koertzen. Ajit Agarkar then claimed the wicket yesterday’s hero, Younis Khan (5), caught behind.

The stage was set for a recovery and Inzamam-ul-Haq strolled onto it. Once again carrying the weight of his team on his substantial shoulders, Inzamam put on 46 with the incumbent Shoaib Malik. The latter was brilliantly caught by Yuvraj for 45, off Ramesh Powar’s bowling, then Mohammad Yousuf (5), Kamran Akmal (18) and Abdur Razzaq (1) followed within the space of 8 overs.

A score of 148 for 7 made for distressing reading, even with one as potent as Inzamam still at the crease. Naved-ul-Hasan banged 27 runs in his 17-ball stay, but it was only a bit of entertainment to delay the inevitable. He was caught in the deep off Pathan, and watched from the pavilion as his captain fell yet again to a run out. If the mix-up was not comical enough on its own, the ease with which Dravid ran to the non-striker’s end and removed the bails certainly added to its appeal.

It was the cue for the curtains at 209/9 and India wrapped up victory 9 runs later. Inzamam’s blushes were spared slightly when he received the Man of the Series award.

India 269-4
Rahul Dravid 92, Virender Sehwag 73, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 59
Naved-ul-Hasan 2/45

Pakistan 218
Inzamam-ul-Haq 79, Shoaib Malik 45
Irfan Pathan 3/35, Ramesh Powar 3/61

India won by 51 runs.
Series drawn 1-1.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Rahul Dravid (92; 1 catch and a run out)

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