Yuvraj and Dhoni pull it off

If you thought the first match was exciting, you should have seen this one. While there weren’t as many runs, there was just as much suspense and exhilaration, and as much magnificent cricket on display.

India put Pakistan in to bat under overcast skies, and quickly took advantage of the conditions. All Pathan needed to remove Salman Butt was two balls, and Afridi was soon caught going for a big one.

Akmal and Malik tried to rebuild, but Rudra Pratap Singh had other ideas, getting Akmal caught off a leading edge. Singh soon got rid of Yousuf for just a single, as an unnecessarily wild drive found the edge.

Captain Inzamam Ul-Haq is who Pakistan will usually look to in such a situation, 82-4, but he could not do much for their cause today. He managed to make 16 before he edged Sachin Tendulkar behind attempting a cut stroke. Vice-captain Younis Khan did no better, giving Dhoni another catch off Singh on 16.

This brought together Malik, in the form of his life, and the explosive Razzaq. The score was 158-6 at a good rate, but Pakistan still needed to accelerate, and they did so in style. The pair dispatched the India bowlers all over the place, taking a particular liking to the pace of Sreesanth and Super Sub Zaheer Khan, whose 14 combined overs cost 110.

Malik’s second fifty of his magnificent century needed just 40 balls, but he didn’t hang around after reaching it, a mistimed drive gave Pathan his third of the day. Razzaq was still in good touch, his 50 took 51 balls, and a late flurry took him to 64 off 56, and Pakistan to 288 for 8 off their 50 overs.

As India’s openers walked to the crease, things were still overcast, and just as India did, Pakistan were able to make the most of things. Asif conjured up a pair of early wickets, bowling Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag did not play in this match, and getting Pathan to glove one behind just two balls later.

India’s two most experienced heads, Tendulkar and Dravid, steadied the ship, but only briefly. Dravid compiled 22 off 42 balls before he was run out, and the run rate was mounting. With this, Yuvraj joined Tendulkar at the crease, and the match was very much alive.

They took up the challenge in their differing but equally effective styles. Despite a couple of let-offs, Tendulkar mixed his own immaculate defence with crisp attacking strokes, off the front and back feet. The two settled for accumulation at first, but the odd aggressive stroke was never too far around the corner.

When Tendulkar cut one to backward point, and Kaif was given lbw the next over, India were in a spot of trouble, but Yuvraj and Dhoni were more than qualified to get them out of it.

Not much over a run a ball was needed, but they set off well in excess of that. Yuvraj brought up his 50 off 49 balls, with fours smashed with power all over the place. Dhoni’s innings was one of particular note as well. When India had wrapped up the game he was on an astonishing 72 off 46 balls. Boundaries came so easily for the young wicketkeeper, some of them with shots more at home in tennis or baseball, others just with amazing power.

It was a Dhoni boundary that sealed the win for India, getting it away behind square to wrap up the game with 16 balls to spare. It was another convincing performance by India today, but it’s impossible to write Pakistan off for the rest of the series. It should be a cracker.

Pakistan 288-8
Shoaib Malik 108, Abdul Razzaq 64*
Irfan Pathan 3-49, RP Singh 3-51

India 292-5
Sachin Tendulkar 95, Yuvraj Singh 79*, Mahendra Dhoni 72*
Mohammad Asif 2-47

India win by 5 wickets and lead the series 2-1

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Mahendra Dhoni

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