It was a clinical performance by India as they levelled the five-match series 1-1 at Rawalpindi -- a venue where they won their maiden Test series over Pakistan a couple of years ago.
They outfoxed, out-thought, outsmarted and eventually outclassed Pakistan in all the departments of the game to indicate that they were peaking probably at the right time in this one-day series -- something that should be a concern for Pakistan.
Pakistan lacked the firepower in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and their problems were further compounded by four silly run-outs, but it was neither India's problem nor concern as they had a job to accomplish which they did professionally, comprehensively and in style.
Securing the first win of the tour must have contributed hugely to India's morale and beating Pakistan after five straight one-day defeats, should certainly have restored their confidence. But this form of cricket is very cruel. The margin of error is minimum and you can easily transform into villains from heroes in a matter of hours. So, it is better to stick to the basics of the game, keep injecting your best effort and put the celebration party on hold.
India had all the reasons to be delighted from the Rawalpindi game. The bowlers maintained a very decent line and length, and the fielders backed them whole-heartedly whereas Rahul Dravid was innovative and displayed himself as a thinking captain while making calculative bowling changes and placing the fielders exactly where they should have been.
Dravid also proved me right when he bowled Irfan Pathan in two spells who later walked away with the man-of-the-match award.
The best thing that happened to India was a century opening stand between Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. No matter how small or big total you are chasing, you need a solid start and that's exactly what the two provided. I was amazed to hear that Sehwag has not scored a century in the last 60 one-dayers in which he has averaged something like 29.
Sehwag is a type of player against whom you cannot set a proper field. He relies so heavily on his eye that he stands tall and punches even the good balls to boundaries without much footwork. He looked in discomfort with his left shoulder and I hope it is not serious because after this series, India have to face England and Sehwag will certainly be one of the key players.
The Sehwag-Tendulkar pair also provided Dravid the luxury to revert to a more conventional batting order and the end result was a seven-wicket victory.
I don't think Inzamam-ul Haq did anything wrong while electing to bat first except that he was deceived by the look of the pitch. The decision was based on the fact that the team batting first here in the last two matches had won. Moreover, Pakistan had also defeated India two years ago while batting first.
But he must be dismayed with the four run-outs, specially the one involving Mohammad Yousuf. I fail to understand how can such an experienced batsman like Yousuf be such a poor judge of a run. The way Yousuf was running, it appeared as if he was being chased by a mad dog! The mistake Yousuf made was that he turned blind with the back towards Tendulkar and the bat in his left hand. And if the intellectuals and wise men say don't run on a mis-field, then don't run or be prepared for the consequences.
Defeat sometimes helps you to get back on track, specially after you are enjoying such a successful run of form like Pakistan since the Bangalore Test. To me it was a timely wake-up call for Pakistan and also a stern warning that if they don't lift their standards, they are headed for big trouble.
Even in defeat, the plus was the batting of Shoaib Malik who reached 90s for the second successive time and Younis Khan, who even batting at No 6, chipped in with 81 while adding 102 for the fifth wicket with Malik. To me, the turning point of the match was when Malik was run-out at the score of 170. Had he batted a few more overs, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi could have exploited the situation better.
Shoaib's absence has been badly felt in both the one-day games. In Peshawar, Pakistan allowed India to rattle 328 and then were unimpressive as India overhauled 265 with 41 balls to spare. Shoaib's return to the fold is essential because it not only provides the comfort cushion to the other Pakistan bowlers, it also restricts and curbs the opponent batsmen's carefree approach.
Pakistan doesn't need to push the panic button after one defeat but yes, they must address core issues like improving the fielding standards, bowling to a tight line and length, and reducing the tendency of throwing away wickets cheaply.
As regards the Lahore one-dayer, it will be the first game that will finish under lights. The outfield will be fast and the wicket would once again be something like the one we had for the first Test in which little under 1,100 runs were scored at the cost of eight wickets.
However, after analysing the strengths of the two teams, I think the captain winning the toss would prefer to chase the target.
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