Pollock century not enough

A blistering 130 from Shaun Pollock was not enough for Africa XI, who lost the first match of the Afro-Asian Cup by 34 runs.

Before Pollock’s heroics though, it was the Asian XI who were batting first, after winning the toss. They made a brisk start, thanks in part to Morne Morkel conceding 11 runs in wides off the first over. Once the ball was close enough to hit though, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly did just that. They added 68 runs for the second wicket from just 49 balls, after the demise of Sanath Jayasuriya.

Sehwag went attempting a flashy cover drive, while Ganguly somewhat made a fool of himself, trying to dab a ball down to third man and chopping onto his stumps. From this solid base, the extremely talented pairing of Mahela Jayawardene and Mohammad Yousuf added a further 94. Both made classy half-centuries at a good lick, but Jayawardene was the more aggressive of the two. He relished the opportunities to late cut and pull, while Yousuf was more content with singles.

There was no great explosion in the later overs, but it wasn’t really needed. A good total was guaranteed, but the efforts of Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh pushed them up to 317.

Shaun Pollock was playing as a specialist batsman for the African XI, and they missed him with the ball. An inexperienced and substandard attack was sent around the park, and no bowler returned particularly respectable figures.

Not only was the African bowling line-up not the strongest, the batting struggled early on as well. The Asian opening bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Mohammad Asif struck five times in little over ten overs, to leave the Africans reeling at 31-5. Asif struck with only his second ball, nipping one back to AB De Villiers, who made the mistake of leaving it. Khan struck to remove Boeta Dippenaar and Loots Bosman, while Asif added the scalps of Steve Tikolo, with an unfortunate hit wicket, and Justin Kemp, who was leading the African XI. They found help from the pitch that their opposition counterparts were unable to, and restricted the batsmen, all but ending the game within the first ten overs.

Pollock was batting at seven, and added 46 with Mark Boucher, before Boucher and then Albie Morkel fell in quick succession to make it 87-7. With nothing to lose, Pollock began to take the attack to the bowling. He unleashed his trademark attacking stroke play, thrashing the ball through the covers and behind point.

He needed some support though, and he got this from Thomas Odoyo and Elton Chigumbura. Chigumbura scored 40 in a partnership of 67 for the eight wicket, before he added 103 with Odoyo for the ninth. Both these lower order batsmen swung the bat, riding their luck and launching some powerful blows. They were aided by the fact that the final Power Play was delayed until the 36th over, when Pollock and Odoyo were able to take 48 from it.

Despite running out of partners, Pollock carried on undeterred, striking his way to a maiden ODI century. However, as the impossible seemed to just be becoming possible, the loss of Odoyo was a big one. It left him with just Morne Morkel, who struggled to give Pollock the strike, and eventually Pollock holed out, with 45 from 18 required.

Asia XI 317-9
Mohammad Yousuf 66, Mahela Jayawardene 65
Morne Morkel 3-68, Elton Chigumbura 2-56, Albie Morkel 2-64

Asia XI won by 34 runs

Africa XI 283
Shaun Pollock 130
Sanath Jayasuriya 3-53, Mohammad Asif 3-57, Zaheer Khan 2-43

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