M A I N   N E W S

Down, but not out
M.R. Mishra

Peshawar, March 19
Yasir Hameed blunted an inspired Indian bowling attack with a fine 98-run knock before crisis man Abdur Razzaq sailed Pakistan through to a four wicket victory with 16 balls to spare in another thrilling contest between the arch-rivals here today.

The victory gave the hosts a vital 2-1 lead in the five-match series as the action moves on to Lahore for the double-header on March 21 and 24.

Although the excitement stretched till the final overs, it did not boil down to a nerve-wracking situation as Razzaq (53 not out) and Moin Khan (22 not out) held their cool to hand the home team its second successive win in the series.

Chasing India’s competitive 244 for nine in 50 overs, Pakistan survived some early scare, reduced as they were to 65 for 4 at one stage, before romping home thanks to the solid batting display by youngster Hameed and the experience of Razzaq. They finished at 247 for six in 47.2 overs.

Razzak completed the victory in style by smashing Lakshmipathy Balaji for a boundary as a packed Arbab Niaz Stadium erupted into celebrations.

The Indians, whose top order came undone on a slow pitch that offered some assistance to bowlers, were themselves to be blamed for allowing Pakistan to wriggle out of a tight situation.

The match, played amidst unprecedented security arrangements considering the city’s proximity to the volatile Afghanistan border, passed off smoothly and the crowd, which also cheered the vanquished Indians as they left the field, again won kudos for their sporting behaviour.

Irfan Pathan, playing his first match of the series in place of an injured Ashish Nehra, picked three wickets in a lion-hearted effort but the other bowlers again fell short of expectations.

If India’s bowling was found wanting, their batting also did not fare much better. And had it not been for a controlled 65 off 76 balls by Yuvraj and some lusty hittings by the tailender Lakshmipathy Balaji (21 off 12 balls), the Indians would have really cut a sorry figure.

India lost last match centurion Sachin Tendulkar for a duck, Virender Sehwag for 13 and VVS Laxman for three to be reduced to 37 for three in the 8th over.

Captain Sourav Ganguly (39) and Rahul Dravid (33) were the other notable performers but they failed to build on their starts.

The Pakistan innings too began on a disastrous note as opener Sahid Afridi, who marked his comeback to international cricket with a 58-ball 80 in the last match at Rawalpindi, departed for six with paceman Pathan accounting for his wicket.

The dangerous Afridi went for a slog but missed the line completely to see his stumps dislodged, giving the young Pathan his first wicket of the historic tour.

The left-arm seamer struck again for his team by removing Yousuf Youhana in his fourth over to reduce the home team to a precarious 29 for two. Youhana snicked an outgoing delivery and VVS Laxman held on to a smart catch at second slip to raise hopes of Indian fightback.

Younis Khan, who joined the action after Youhana’s dismissal, struck a couple of sweetly timed boundaries before he was run out for 18. His partner Hameed hit a crisp straight drive but the ball deflected off Balaji’s hands and knocked down the wickets at the non-striker’s end with Younis out of his crease.

Shoaib Malik, who came to bat ahead of skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, also did not survive long, falling prey to Zaheer Khan as he edged an outside the off stump ball to Virender Sehwag in the slips and Pakistan were reduced to 65 for 4. 


We will bounce back: Ganguly

Lakshmipati Balaji celebrates after the run-out dismissal of Pakistan’s Younis Khan
Lakshmipati Balaji celebrates after the run-out dismissal of Pakistan’s Younis Khan in the third One-Day International in Peshawar on Friday. — Reuters photo

Peshawar, March 19
Upset after forfeiting the hard-earned Karachi lead at Rawalpindi and then handing it over today to his Pakistani counterpart Inzamam-ul Haq here, Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly said India would bounce back in the next two games at Lahore.

“The next two games are very important for us and we’ll try to win them,” he said after the match.

Saying that his team had failed to capitalise even after getting an early breakthrough, Ganguly said, “In the middle overs, we had them at 65 for four at one stage. One more wicket and it could have cost them the match.”

When asked if he missed the service of specialist spinners like Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh, Ganguly said, “One can’t do anything-in fact that’s the way things go. Injury happens and (in the seniors’ absence) it’s for the youngsters to come up and deliver.”

Victorious skipper Inzamam-ul Haq, meanwhile, praised the visitors and said India had played well and it was a tight close.

“It was a difficult track to bat on and it was not easy to set or chase a score of 244. But they played well,” he said.

Saying that his team never took it easy even though the score apparently looked easy to achieve, Inzamam said, “We did not relax till the end.”

Talking about his bowling attack, Inzamam praised Shabbir Ahmed and said, “Despite conceding some no balls and wides initially, he bowled to a certain line. However, we conceded 30-40 more runs and this is an area we would have to improve on.”

The skipper also lauded Man of the Match Yasir Hameed for his consistent performance.

“Yaseer is an youngster and performing so well in the series. Today he played brilliantly and then Razzaq and Moin contributed in the middle overs to win us the match,” he said.

Inzamam who played his first ODI at the venue today, also praised the Peshawar crowd for their behaviour.

It could have been a memorable century for the youngster, especially when playing against the arch-rivals in a historic series, that too before a home crowd. But Yasir Hameed does not regret missing the ton by a whisker.

After his match-winning knock of 98 that fetched him the Man of the Match award, the shy youngster said,’’ I’m happy to perform here before the home crowd.’’

Asked whether he regretted missing the century by just two runs when Yuvraj Singh caught him at point off Irfan Pathan, all the Pakistani opener had to say was,’’ Allah ki marzi.’’

Talking about his innings, he said,’’ The condition today suited the bowlers and it was a seaming track supporting the bowlers. However, I thought of playing positive and play throughout the innings. But I also decided to play my shots whenever I got a chance and at the same time not to throw my wicket.’’ — UNI Back

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