India Win a Thrilling Match.
India remained calm when it mattered to win a thrilling third one-day against Pakistan. They now take a 2-1 lead in the 5-match with two to go. This victory represents the smooth transformation of guard that is taking place in this Indian team. The old guard of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid consolidated after a shaky start and then the future core of the team, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, played swashbuckling innings to finish the match in a hurry. This is India's eleventh consecutive victory chasing. This is refreshing, given that a few years ago we were considered poor chasers.
India won the toss and duly inserted Pakistan in. Bowlers did a good job initially on a helpful pitch and then kept things under control. Shoaib Malik and Abdul Razzaq played very well to take Pakistan to a respectable 288. They made 89 off last ten overs. Still, one had the feeling that on a good batting pitch and with the strong Indian batting lineup, it would not be enough. And so it proved.
Pakistan started very well and got two quick wickets. Then it was upto Dravid and Tendulkar to steady the innings. And they did that beautifully. Ball was doing a bit and Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul were bowling very well. But Sachin and Rahul played very responsibly. They concentrated on not losing any wickets and were slow initially. The fifty came in 12.3 overs and we were 63/2 in 15 overs. A few years ago that start would have been considered very bad chasing 289. But such is the nature of one-day game these days that a score of 289 looked eminently achievable even when the score was only 63 after first 15. We needed only Tendulkar and Dravid to stay there. Dravid got out to direct hit and India were again in trouble at 84/3. Then the fresh blood of Yuvraj changed the course of the match. He started his free-flowing innings and soon our run rate started climbing. Tendulkar also started playing confidently and there was a flurry of boundaries. After a crucial partnership of 105 runs in 15.4 overs Sachin got out to a tired shot at a brilliant 95.
But that innings set the scene for the heroics of Dhoni. He walked in with India in a precarious condition at 190/5 after Kaif got out for a duck. Match was delicately balanced then and could have gone either way. After a cautious beginning he simply toyed with Pakistan bowling and hammered them to all parts of the ground. He deservedly got the Man of the Match award for his match-winning 72 of 46 balls. Yuvraj also played extremely well to end on 76 not out.
This victory somehow gave more happiness than any other win of recent times. We really needed to work hard and the satisfying thing was that the youngsters kept their cool under pressure and finished the job. Certainly this augurs well for the Indian team.