Sehwag, Sachin star in Kochi

India v Pakistan,
First ODI,
April 2, 2004 – Kochi, India

Sachin Tendulkar might have lost some of his old magic with the bat, but he still possesses his distinct ability to pick up wickets aplenty with the ball in the odd game, even after not bowling for ages. A 5-fer, his second best bowling figures ever in ODIs, helped derail the Pakistani batting order, after a bright start while chasing India’s total of 281, and thus take India to a comprehensive win in the first of the six ODI matches to be played between the two sides in this series, at Kochi.

However, Tendulkar wasn’t the only hero for the day for India. In what seems to have become a habit for them, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid scored masterful centuries, to deny Pakistan a perfect opportunity to bundle an otherwise spineless-looking Indian batting, for a meager score, after the home side elected to bat first on a perfect batting strip.

Pakistan must be ruing, to let two simple opportunities to carry on the momentum they gained with the win in the Bangalore Test, get wasted – First letting India off the hook, after picking up two early wickets, those of Tendulkar and Ganguly, and then faltering in the chase after a perfect start by the opening pair.

Sehwag was dropped off the very first ball of the match, by Mohammed Hafeez, off a sharp chance off Mohammad Sami’s bowling. Tendulkar wasn’t let off though, as the first mis-timed shot he played, a pull, resulted in his wicket, caught by Yousuf Youhana, off Naved-ul-Hasan. Ganguly, clearly not having the best of periods in his career, followed next ball, when his leg stump was knocked off the ground, leaving India 4/2 in the second over itself.

Both Sehwag and Dravid survived close calls, the former being let off again by wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal off a difficult chance, and then surviving a run out chance, which would have had him miles from the crease, and the latter being adjudged not out off a leg-before appeal, which could have gone either way. However, once the initial jitters were taken care off, Sehwag was his merry aggressive self, actually going on to his hundred, at less than run-a-ball.

Sehwag survived a couple of more outside chances, before losing his concentration to a straight-ish delivery from Abdul Razzaq, which rattled his stumps. But India had already crossed the 200-run mark by then, and that too only in the 36th over. Yuvraj Singh, who joined Dravid after Sehwag’s dismissal, helped keep up the run rate, not by his typically fashioned batting style, but by partnering the senior member well, while he changed gears. However, once he was dismissed by off-spinner Arshad Khan, the run-rate dropped dramatically, which led only to more wickets.

Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Dhoni, Dravid and Lakshmipathy Balaji, all followed within a space of a handful of runs, but only after Dravid reached his hundred, to shut out any chances India seemed to have had to reaching the total of 300, or plus. Arshad Khan accounted for three of those wickets, except for Dravid’s who fell to a run out, and ended with impressive figures of 4/33 on his ODI-comeback. 12 runs of the final over, including a six by Harbhajan Singh, helped India reach 281 for 8, off the 50 overs, setting a target which would have taken a big effort from Pakistan, but wasn’t impossible nonetheless.

Pakistan’s chase got off to a wonderful start, with left-hander Salman Butt especially looking confident, placing and timing the ball to perfection. Kamran Akmal, a surprise choice for a partner for Butt, instead of Shahid Afridi, took a passive role, handing the strike to the aggressive of the two, at any possible opportunities. The two helped Pakistan breeze to 45/0 off six overs, before a fielding change, that of placing Sehwag at short-point, worked to dismiss Akmal, off Balaji.

Ashish Nehra, playing in the side in place of Irfan Pathan, did wonders in his first over itself, when he picked up the crucial wicket of the dangerous-looking Butt. The batsman tried to pull a wide, outside-the-off-stump delivery to mis-time it straight to Ganguly. Shoaib Malik, who missed the entire Test series because of his inability to bowl as a result of an injury, couldn’t continue his invincible form against India from the last season, as he fell cutting to Balaji, pouched by Yuvraj at his customary point position.

It became worse for Pakistan, when Yousuf Youhana was dismissed off a brilliant caught and bowled by Zaheer Khan, to reduce the visitors to 64/4 off the 13th over, with pressure now on Ganguly’s opposite number, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was stranded at the other end. He was up to the challenge though, producing some exquisite cover drives.

However, the introduction of the spinners brought about a considerable decline in the run-rate, which was well taken advantage of by Tendulkar, who picked up Inzamam off a peach of a delivery which saw the off-stump being clicked, the first of his five victims. Abdul Razzaq followed soon after, while at the other end Mohammad Hafeez tried to restore some credibility with two mammoth sixes. Razzaq was the next of the little master’s victims, when a full-toss demanding to be spanked out of the ground was mis-handled to give an easy catch to Sehwag at leg-gully, leaving Pakistan with no chances of a victory, unless for a Shahid Afridi miracle, at 129/6.

Afridi didn’t last long, falling caught at deep mid-wicket by Zaheer Khan, off a slog sweep off Tendulkar. Tendulkar soon picked up two more wickets, those of Sami and Hafeez, to complete a 5-fer, his second in ODI cricket, and incidentally, his second at the same venue, Kochi. The last two batsmen, Naved and Arshad provided some resistance, to take Pakistan to a respectable score, along with some entertainment through aggressive batting, before Zaheer came back into the attack to remove the latter, to bring an end to the match, with India taking an all-important 1-0 lead in the six-ODi series.

The two teams now travel to Vishakhapatnam in the south-eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where the second ODI will take place on Tuesday, April 5th.

India 281/8 in 50 overs
V Sehwag 108, R Dravid 104, Naved-ul-Hasan 2/38, Arshad Khan 4/33
Pakistan 194 all out in 45.2 overs
Mohammad Hafeez 42, L Balaji 2/32, Z Khan 2/25, SR Tendulkar 5/50

Man of the Match: V Sehwag

India won by 87 runs, and leads the six-ODI series 1-0.

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