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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Looking Ahead :- India's Last Shot at Redemption

Looking Ahead :- India's Last Shot at Redemption

After India took a strong 2-0 lead, few would have expected Pakistan to bounce back in the Pepsi Cup. But, with a great amount of self-belief exuding in the Pakistani camp, they have trounced India in the remaining three matches and have taken an unassailable lead in this ODI series. This is perhaps the last match these two teams would be playing in this calender year, and with the things falling apart for India and going the neighbourly way, they would surely like to finish this memorable tour on a winning note. The last ODI at Delhi, would also be John Wright's last as the coach of the Indian team, and a win here would be the best parting gift the boys can give to their wonder coach. Cricketfundas.com gives its readers an exclusive preview to the final ODI between India and Pakistan to be played at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium, New Delhi.

Pitch :- Will they ? Wont they ? This was perhaps the situation the DDCA was going through since the last two weeks or so. But, as political compulsions and diplomacy over-ruled their intentions, it was made clear that Delhi would host the ODI. The pitch to be used for the ODI is a virgin one. Going by reports, the bounce would be of a prime concern to the batsman and even history suggests that the Kotla pitch is a low and twin bounced wicket. Going by statistics, India have won 6 of their 10 ODIs, they have played at this venue. However, the last game played here ended with England scraping through by 2 runs. The weather at Delhi these days has been on the hotter side, and the weather would be something these two teams will have to adapt to for the last time in this series.

India :- Having lost three games on the trot, one need not be a rocket scientist to know what the morale of the Men in Blue would be. But this is a situation, where they can show what they are made of. A greater determination and a greater degree of self-belief is all they have to carry to the Kotla if they want to end this series on a positive note. The batting, which was a major factor in the two Indian wins, yet again let the team down on Friday, despite useful contributions by Kaif and Dravid. The contributions of the top order will have to come to the fore, if India do have any intentions of drawing level the series. Apart from the two matches, Sehwag's gone through a mini-slump, and this has hurt India's fortunes. Sehwag has to give the start India have been cashing on and then things will get easier for the rest of the in-form batsmen. If India have failed to win the last two games, it is purely because of their lacklustre bowling. The bowling unit have had three consecutive off-days and the team management will have to get the combination right for this final ODI. Ajit Agarkar may eventually replace the struggling Balaji and give India with a more in-form option. With the screw tightened at one-end, it is a must that the run flow be choked at the other too. What lies ahead of India is a tough ask, of drawing back level against a fluent and flawless Pakistan team. But, if anything, this is one game the boys must give their 200%, as a win could be the appropriate gift they can give their coach, for whom this will be the last game in charge.

Pakistan :- Its been a fairy tale journey for Pakistan, ever since that defeat at Vizag. After taking an unbeatable lead in the series, the visitors might well be looking to win this series outright. And if they manage this feat, history will be in the making, where a side wins a 6 match series after losing the first two games. Its been the Pakistani batting, that has made this unbelievable comeback possible in this series. The opening duo, especially Shahid Afridi looked unstoppable on Kanpur, on his way to a 45-ball ton and Salman Butt providing him with some able support. Pakistan in this series has been riding on some excellent starts they have got courtesy, the openers, which has basically allowed the rather elegant and classy middle order batsmen to play their own game without worrying much about the scoreboard. The Pakistani bowling has immensely improved as the series has progressed. Rana Naved's immaculate accuracy has done many a damage to the Indian batting order and these early wickets have proved to be crucial in the context of the game. But, if this rejuvenated Pakistan team has looked weak anywhere, its been the spinners - with the middle-overs yielding a lot of runs. If they can contain the batsmen during the middle-overs, the game could well be in their control. Complacency and over-confidence is least they can afford in this crucial tie. And if these other external factors are kept under check, nothing can stop Pakistan from returning home with the Pepsi Cup 2005.

The final ODI at Delhi has made headlines for several other reasons too - mainly for the two Heads of the State would be there to witness this game and use this cricket diplomacy as a means to achieve the ultimate end - peace between India and Pakistan.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Looking Ahead :- India vs Pakistan - A 100 not out

Looking Ahead :- India vs Pakistan - A 100 not out

It was nothing short of a 7 hour drama that we witnessed at Ahmedabad - right from the delayed start to the last ball and more so, after the game was over. Pakistan emerged on top in the only encounter in the series, which kept us all guessing till the last ball, thanks to a cool and unruffled performance by their skipper Inzamam Ul-Haq. But, as this series reaches the climax stage, it will be really crucial for both sides to perform well, as the tournament moves into a "Winner Takes It All" situation. This game will also mark a momentous occasion in Asian Cricket, with India and Pakistan playing their 100th match against each other. Cricketfundas.com gives its readers an exclusive preview to the fifth Pepsi Cup ODI between India and Pakistan to be played at Kanpur.

Pitch :- By this stage, I guess the readers know it all. The Kanpur wicket has lived up to the trend set in this series by other pitches, which clearly indicates that the wicket is a batting paradise. The toss becomes crucial on this wicket, as it is expected to see some wear and tear and become slower and lower towards the second half of the second session. The average first inning score here is 222, but with the form the batsmen are in at the moment, we could see a lot more than 222 scored on this wicket. India would not mind playing on this venue, as they have a great track record - winning 6 of the 8 games they have played here before. The playing conditions in Kanpur might well be the best we may have come across all series, as the maximum temperature is expected to be 28 degrees with more or less no humidity.

India :- India were punished by Pakistan in the earlier game for some inconsistent and complacent performances by their bowlers as they failed to defend over 300 runs successfully. Besides, the Indians have been forced to make certain changes as the skipper has been banned for 6 games, on the basis of the over-rates issue. The last game at Ahmedabad saw a good effort with the bat by all the batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar brought up his 38th ton and his form and looks in ominous form. India will have to bank on his experience and deliverence, if they have to progress any further in this series. The rest of the batsmen also look in good cricketing form, as they have been stroking runs regularly. It will be interesting to see as to who replaces Saurav Ganguly in the team. Dinesh Mongia will bank on his experience to forge a place for himself, while Sridharan Sriram might just pip Mongia on the basis of his form. The Indian bowling looked pretty ragged at Ahmedabad. But, with Anil Kumble back in the helm of the attack, experience might just have come at the right time for the Indian bowling. It will be a tough choice for the management to select the second spinner. Murali Karthik's two wickets do boost his credentials, while if Harbhajan is fit, he might just get the nod over Karthik. The pacers were pretty disappointing at Ahmedabad. With India likely to go with a 2-pacer strategy, it will be interesting to see who could be left out. India will have to play their A-game if they have to beat Pakistan in this ODI series. Can Rahul Dravid's boys provide the spark that was missing at Ahmedabad ? Will this new-look Indian team put it across to Pakistan ? Only time will tell !

Pakistan :- Jamshedpur was and could possibly be the turning point of the series for them. After that huge win over India, there is a certain amount of bouyancy about the visitors. Pakistan battled against odds and won at Ahmedabad, but they might well be aware that these India-Pakistan matches could well be decided at any given time, so over-confidence and complacency is something they can ill-afford at this stage. The Pakistani batting in particular looks pretty strong, especially with the blazing and flying starts that are being provided by Shahid Afridi. Salman Butt is also stroking the ball pretty well and looks in good form. The middle order has been the striking factor for Pakistan in this series. Overall they have looked pretty solid and have mixed their attack with caution in a very mature manner. Shoaib Malik's bowling and his crucial half-centuries have lent a proper balance to this Pakistani team and it is from here that they can look for better successes. Inzamam played a crucial and cool innings at Ahmedabad and it will be imperative for him to guide the other batsmen along, if Pakistan have to chase a huge score or set a competitive total. The Pakistani bowling looks pretty ordinary. Yes, they succeeded in Jamshedpur, but law of averages caught up with them at Ahmedabad. The bowling when under pressure lacks a solution and seems pretty inconsistent. Rana Naved and Mohammad Sami are certain to take the new ball, while the Pakistani Management might just reconsider the Kaneria selection, as he has found it tough to put his feet firm on One-Day International cricket just yet. Pakistan have the momentum, but it takes only a few moments to lose it and if they can try and play the same sort of cricket they have been since the past two games, a victory is a more than possible equation.

It may not be a World Cup final for that matter, but it has its own charm and speciality. The Hundredth India-Pakistan match will be played at Kanpur and as fans from both sides of the border bear the weight of the moment, we hope that the best cricket is reserved for this special day in India-Pakistan cricketing history and it gives us back some moments that can be hard to forget and may we see the best cricket from both these mighty Asian cricketing titans.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Looking Ahead :- The War of Nerves

Looking Ahead :- The War of Nerves

Disappointment was in the air, as India could not break their infamous jinx at Jamshedpur, while Pakistan just could not do any wrong on Saturday as they crushed India by a huge margin. The action in the cricketing map now travels westwards to Ahmedabad, where the fourth ODI between India and Pakistan will be staged. The venue was in the news for all reasons even before the series began and it is being looked at as a one-off game by the Pakistanis, who portrayed great reluctance to play at Ahmedabad. Will the off-the field events surrounding this ground affect their performance ? Cricketfundas.com gives its readers an exclusive preview to the fourth ODI to be played between India and Pakistan at Ahmedabad.

Pitch :- If reports are to be believed, the pitch at the Motera stadium will promise another "run-riot". The curator's word on the wicket seems to be that this wicket is a good "one-day wicket", which essentially goes on to say that batsmen will plunder runs at their will, while the bowlers will be left punished. The wicket is also expected to take some turn, albeit slow, in the second innings and could slow down towards the end of the game. Besides the wicket, the extreme temperatures will yet again test he resoluteness of the players and it will be interesting to see if the amount of travel catches up with them. The Indian track record at the Motera is pretty impressive (5 wins from 7 games) and they will be hoping to repeat their success here, especially after the Jamshedpur Jolt. The captain who wins the toss here, usually bats first and going by the curator's word, a score of 270 will be par on this wicket.

India :- Call it indiscipline, complacency or over-confidence - these are some factors other than cricket, that resulted in the loss of the Indians at Jamshedpur. Having said that, the wake cup call from their opponents couldn't have come at a better time and has given them plenty to think about. The batting was one of the main factors that let India down on Saturday, but one would call it an off-day for them. The degrees of responsibility the batsmen have to shoulder have risen, as the series has reached its business end and its time the seniors stand up and be counted. The Pakistanis have found a weak link in the batting order with Saurav and Sachin as they are giving away their wickets for hardly anything, and the time has come for them to show the Pakistanis their true worth. The middle-order also needs to chip with some more meaningful contributions and if that happens, a bulky score is on the cards. As far as bowling is concerned, the Indians might have to alter their combination, as going in with 3 bowlers with same traits (Pathan, Zaheer and Nehra) seems meaningless. With a near possibility of Balaji getting the all clear to play the game, we could just see him team up with Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. Harbhajan Singh, has looked off-colour in the previous two matches and there is no bigger occasion for the offie to contribute with a good spell. India will have to forget the Jamshedpur fiasco and consider it as a bad day in the office and move on with the momentum of the series. The series has offered yet another chance to the Indians to wrap it up, or at least not lose it and it will be interesting to see if the Indians make full use of this opportunity in hand.

Pakistan :- Pakistan came up with a truly inspirational win against the hosts on Saturday, which for sure has nullified all the advantage the Indians carried from both Vizag and Kochi. Now, as they have succeeded in bouncing themselves into contention, this game for Pakistan will basically define their position in this series. The Pakistani batting looks perhaps at its strongest after the performance at Jamshedpur. Salman Butt looks in great batting touch and Pakistan will be encouraged by the fact that Shaoib Malik has got himself some runs after two successive failures. The most important aspect of this match will be determined by how well the Pakistani middle order plays. Inzamam is in good stroking form, albeit he is short of runs and it will also be interesting to see if Younis Khan makes any significant contributions with respect to his form with the bat. Pakistan's bowling, has indeed been strengthened by Rana Naved's performance with the ball and their success depended on picking early wickets. How quickly they can send Sehwag back to the hut, will also determine the result for Pakistanis. Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved are in good rhythm and it will be interesting to see how much purchase Danish Kaneria gets from the surface. All in all, yet another of those must-win games for Pakistan, and if Pakistan have any intentions of taking home the Pepsi Cup, this game will prove decisive in that regard.

Most of the matches in this series have by and large been adjudicated before a ball was bowled, and the winning formula for the skippers seems to be win the toss, bat first, runs on the board and thats it. There has been no opportunity to witness any nerve wreckers, and a situation for this is ideally made for one, and we hope that the game at Ahmedabad provides a certainly more balanced contest between the ball and the bat, and quash the belief that the team that has won the toss, wins the game. Security will be one of the prime concerns for the officials and one hopes that this game passes by without any incidents of serious magnitude.




Friday, April 08, 2005

Looking Ahead :- Its "Now or Never" for Pakistan

Looking Ahead :- Its "Now or Never" for Pakistan

Just two games into the ODI series, and we are in for a crunch match. After India completed a comprehensive 58 win over Pakistan at Vishakhapatnam and put their noses in front in the 6 match series, its now or never for Pakistan. A must-win situation awaits us all, as we move into the 3rd game of the Pepsi Cup at Jamshedpur. The Keenan Stadium here is one of those grounds, where the opposition has always managed to put it against India and it will be interesting to see if this stat still holds true. Cricketfundas.com presents to its readers an exclusive preview for the 3rd ODI between India and Pakistan to be played at Jamshedpur.

Pitch :-

The pitch at the Keenan stadium has always seen high scoring games and this is a big indicator of the strip that will be used for the game. The captain winning the toss will in all likeliness bat first, but there will be something in it for the bowlers early on, for the first 10 overs or so. The weather at Jamshedpur is not something to write home about. The city is likely to see a consitently hot weather throughout tomorrow and yet again, it seems as though the heat will basically define the game. Interestingly, the stats are in favour of the team batting second, who have won 5 out of the 8 earlier games played here. Pakistan have won both their encounters in Jamshedpur (against India and Sri Lanka), while India broke the Keenan jinx against South Africa in 2000-01. India lost their last ODI played here against the West Indies in 2002-03.

India :-

India will go into this game with their tails up, and carrying the confidence from Vizag, where they outbatted Pakistan. This is a crucial game for India, with a view that if they win this game, they at least do not lose the series and can go all out for a win in the rest of the matches. Jamshedpur has its own woes and worries for the Indian team. The Men-in-Blue have only won 1 out of their 7 last encounters here and one hopes that they would be all set to improve on their poor record here. India will go into this match with their in-form batsmen already creating havoc among the opposition bowling. While Sehwag, Dravid and MS Dhoni have literally tpyed with the Pakistani bowlers, runs beckon for the big guns like Sachin and Ganguly. Sachin and Saurav should use this match to get in some much-needed runs, that will do good to the team for the rest of the matches. The middle order also needs to respond, as their presence could be crucial in the next few matches. The Indians will be without the services of their strike bowler L.Balaji for the next 2 games and we could see them go with two in-form pacemen in Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra in this match. Murali Kartik might get a look-in along with Harbhajan Singh and much in the middle overs will depend on how they bowl. With the non-regular bowlers going through a decent spell of form, India might have just got the combination right with a two seamer and two spinner attack. India have nothing to lose in this match, as they have already taken a 2-0 lead. But extending this lead will be of utmost important for Saurav and Co, if the Indians have to win the series.

Pakistan :-

All is not lost yet for Pakistan, who gave the Indians a run for their money at Vizag, but the sheer pressure of chasing 356 runs let the visitors down. This game effectively presents itself as a do-or-die or a must-win situation for Pakistan, if they have to keep their hopes alive of claiming the ODI series. Pakistan have already announced their changes going into the game tomorrow. Younis Khan is all set to return back into the team, after a two-match absence due to some health problems, Rao Ifthikar will make his first appearance in the series, with Mohammad Sami being rested and Arshad Khan makes way for leg-spinner Danish Kaneria. The Pakistani batting looks strong and resilient and if only Inzamam was lucky with the coin toss, the story might have just been different. Pakistan will be bolstered by the return of Younis Khan but yet, they may well have to plan their innings well if they have to finish well. The bowling line-up for Pakistan looks a bit thin and may as well lack penetration with the exclusion of Sami. But it presents an opportunity to someone like Ifthikar Anjum, who has been a passenger till now. It will be interesting to see how Danish Kaneria performs in the shorter version of the game and the Pakistanis will be hoping to see him trouble the batsman as much as he does in the Test matches. All in all, the mantra for Pakistan to keep themselves going will be "Now or Never", as a loss could make the next three games meaningless for them.

The Keenan Stadium, has witnessed some unfortunate incidents the last time around and it will be a big acid test for the security and the police to see that such incidents of crowd violence are not repeated and the game goes off peacefully. The ball is in the Pakistani court, but it is up to them to play it or leave it, and whatever may be the outcome of the game, be prepared for an absorbing contest.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cricketfundas.com Highlights :- Dho(ni) Daala

Cricketfundas.com Highlights :- Dho(ni) Daala

As cricket made its foray into Andhra Pradesh, something special was to be on the cards. This was the first time an international cricket match had been played at the ACA-VDCA Stadium in Vizag, which is located among the most picturesque of locations 15 kms from the main township of Vishakhapatnam. It was one of those games, where one did not know how it would eventually progress, as the pitch was virgin and the ground had never played host to an ODI. Cricketfundas.com presents to its readers an exclusive match review through its highlights of the 2nd ODI between India and Pakistan at Vizag.

The Tale of the Coin -

Inzamam's woes with calling right continued, as he lost the toss yet again to the Indian skipper, who did not have any hesitations in opting to bat first and make the first use of the pitch. It was a belter of a wicket, with no encouraging signs for the bowlers and any score of around 280-290 would have been competitive on this wicket

The Indian Innings :-

The Indians started off their innings with a swoosh, scoring 10 runs of the first over. But little did they know that their progress was halted by a brilliant fielding effort from Youhana, who ran Sachin Tendulkar out for 2. It was a bold and an inspiring move by Saurav Ganguly to send in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as India were going all guns blazing. Dhoni and Sehwag together took full control of the Pakistani bowling, as Sehwag notched up his fifty of just 26 balls. Both batsmen took full toll of what looked like an aimless and a hapless bowling attack the Pakistanis played with. India reached their hundred pretty early, and this provided them with a strong foundation to consolidate in the mid overs. Sehwag, got out for 74 off 40 balls after setting the stadium alight, and this prompted the arrival of Saurav Ganguly, the skipper. His dreaded form with the bat continued as he just notched up 9 runs, before he was cleaned up by Sami. It was capitalization time for the Indians as MS Dhoni played shots all around the ground and Rahul Dravid doing what he does best, rotate the strike and keep the scorers busy. Dhoni eventually reached his first ODI ton, with the help of a lot of hits to the fence. Rahul Dravid also played the game at his own pace and got to a fifty. After his ton, Dhoni did not stop clobbering the Pakistani attack, before holding out to Shoaib Malik. Dravid followed suit and so did the middle order. But the lower half of the batting order yet again, chipped in with crucial runs, as India finished at a mighty score of 356/9 off their allotted 50 overs.

The Pakistani Run Chase :-

For the second time in a row, the Pakistanis were involved in a run-chase, and this time around they were heading for an impossible mission on hand. To add insult to injury, Ashish Nehra grabbed Afridi for a second ball duck. But that did not stop Abdul Razzaq to justify his promotion and march towards the target as he flayed anything that was within his reach. He especially took toll of anything pitched short and played some delightful strokes. Initially he found an able ally in Salman Butt, who timed everything sweetly off his bat. But, just when the Pakistani bandwagon was on a high, Butt miscued a ball from Nehra, only to find it safely pouched by Sehwag, going for 36. Razzaq reached his fifty in style and was joined by the skipper, who made his intentions clear as he walked out to the middle. Misfortune struck the Pakistanis, as Inzamam regained his classical mode of dismissal as he was run out for 16, with Pakistan clearly downsized. Yousuf Youhana and Abdul Razzaq added some valuable runs, before Razzaq edged one, only to be taken brilliantly down the legside by Dhoni. There was a similar middle order collapse for the Pakistanis also, but Yousuf Youhanna and Kamran Akmal kept the game going for them, until Youhanna's scintillating knock was ended by a tired shot only to be caught of Kaif. After Youhanna's dismissal, Pakistan certainly lost hopes of staging a comeback, but Kamran Akmal's never-say-die attitude came to the fore, as he rallied along with his young tailenders to try and take Pakistan home. But, quick wickets at the other end, rattled his hopes and India bowling Pakistan out for 298.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was rightly adjudged the man of the match for his destructive batting score of 148 and certainly took the game away from the Pakistanis. Its getting desperate time for Pakistan to win a game, with the series looking slightly tilted in favour of India but its not over yet for Pakistan, but can they stop the Indian juggernaut ? The answer to this question shall be found out at Jamshedpur.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Looking Ahead :- Beat the Heat - Part II

Looking Ahead :- Beat the Heat - Part II

After witnessing a rather one-sided contest at Kochi, where Pakistan could not beat both India and the Kerala heat, the India-Pakistan cricket circus changes coasts and moves eastwards to the south-eastern port city of Vishakapatnam. This game to be played in Vizag will be the first in four years, with the last game played between India and Australia in 2001. The importance of this game need not be reiterated, as Pakistan will look to have their number on the board, while India will try their best to sway away the pendulum of the series in their favour. Cricketfundas.com presents its readers with an exclusive preview of the 2nd Pepsi Cup ODI between India and Pakistan at Vishakhapatnam.

Pitch :- The pitch in the Indira Priyadarshini Stadium at Vizag has always been a batting beauty. The stats of the ground prove this very fact, as the team batting first have won 4 of the 5 games played in the past. The toss proved to be one of the factors that influenced an Indian win and it will be of paramount importance for the captain winning the toss to bat first as run on the board can always work in the team's favour during the second half of the match. Yet again, the fitness levels of the men on the field will be put to a real test and battling the conditions may just prove to be the deciding factor in this game at Vizag. For number-crunchers, India have won 2 of their 3 games, while Pakistan have featured in a 12-run loss to Sri Lanka in 1999 at Vizag.

India :- Having won over their opponents convincingly at Kochi, the Indians will be brimming with confidence. John Wright clearly highlighted the first two matches as important, and having given their all in the game at Kochi, the Vizag game yet again demands a 101% effort from the Indians. It almost seems that a certain Virender Sehwag is taking the opposition in his own hands. His century at Kochi comes at no better time for both him and the team, as the batting looks towards boosting their confidence levels. Apart from Sehwag, Rahul Dravid looks in fine batting touch, having scored his century. But, it will be extremely important for the other batsmen to get their contributions going by gaining form, which could prove useful for the matches ahead. In the bowling department, one feels that the Team Management will stick with the 3 pacers and 1 spinner combination, as it proved to be successful at Kochi. All three pacemen did a considerably good job at Kochi and the Indian team will be pinning its hopes on the bowlers to do it again. India clearly looked the better side when it came to all departments of the game and more importantly doing the small things correctly - running between the wickets and catching. But things can change in no-time, especially in an India vs Pakistan series and this only sends warning signals for the Men in Blue to guard against complacency of any sorts.

Pakistan :- Pakistan have themselves to blame for finishing second best to India at Kochi. Their batting did not look in-sync and they paid a heavy price for complacency. But having said that, this Pakistani team under Inzamam has shown us time and again that they cannot be written off. Vizag will be a new day and a new game for them, and this time they will be hoping to open their account in the series too. The batting at Kochi got off to a good start and all of a sudden collapsed. We could see Shahid Afridi opening the batting along with Salman Butt, with Kamran Akmal going down to the normal no. 7 position. The probability of Younis Khan getting fit is also getting lesser by the minute. The senior players like skipper Inzamam and Youhanna will certainly be expected to play the game with greater levels of responsibility, compared to what they did at Kochi. In the words of Rameez Raja, the Pakistan bowling was "one-dimensional" and lacked anything different from what was on show. It will be interesting to see if Pakistan try and change things around in their bowling department for this game. The game at Kochi, opened up a weak link in the Pakistani team - their catching. Pakistan have to improve their catching skills if they have to create moments that can possibly change games in their favour. "Write us off at your own peril" will be the message given by Inzy to the Indians, and it will be a sheer test of their resolve if they can in reality bounce back from the first punch delivered to them by the Indians. Probably, Vizag will have a solution to their problems !

India go into this game, carrying all the confidence and advantage from Kochi. But Pakistan would have that if at all they needed to correct themselves and be back on track, it was at Vishakhapatnam. It would be yet another situation, as the possibility of the sun becoming a major obstacle in the outcome of the game increases. For India, it will be crucial to have this in their bag to try and go for the kill in the next few games and for Pakistan, it will be a matter of putting their first foot of contention in the series.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cricketfundas.com Highlights - India's Successful Backwater Adventure

Cricketfundas.com Highlights - India's Successful Backwater Adventure

It was only the fourth instance, where one-day cricket made its journey to God's Own Country - Kerala. Cochin or Kochi, played host to the first Pepsi Cup One Day International between India and Pakistan and with soaring expectations, one could not have begun from a more serene place in the country with the backwaters at cricket's backdrop. Cricketfundas.com presents its readers with an exclusive match report of all that happened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the first Pepsi Cup ODI between India and Pakistan.

The Tale of the Coin :-

By and large, when one-day cricket is usually played in India, the toss is considered to be a first step towards the outcome of the match. The pitch was one, where the skipper winning the toss had no hesitation to bat first and it became imperative for Saurav Ganguly to toss it right. Saurav did win the toss, after Inzi called it wrong and chose to bat first on a hot and humid day in Kochi.

Indian Innings :-

The Indians came into the game under some pressure due to their dismal performance at Bangalore. But they had to put the past behind and concentrate on the present as they had a considerable job on hand. In a way, they failed to cash in on the opportunity of setting up a good foundation for the final assault as they lost Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly early. It was the case of "Cometh the hour and cometh the man" when Rahul Dravid strode out to bat under trying and extreme weather conditions. Dravid and Sehwag initially focussed their partnership on staying on the wicket and getting through with some damage control exercises. But once they looked settled, Sehwag in particular opened up along with Dravid providing able support. The pair literally toyed along with the Pakistani bowling, even though they struggled to beat the Kochi heat. Cashing on some hapless bowling by the Pakistanis, the pair added 201 for the third wicket, which literally took the game away from Pakistan. Sehwag ended up with a magnificient and mature ton (108) to his name, and Dravid as usual, playing the support role and chugging along to reach his ton (104) too. After Sehwag's departure, the rest of the Indian batting did not perform as per expectations. At one stage they looked all set for over 300, but some good dogged bowling by the Pakistanis especially Arshad Khan and Mohammad Hafeez, restricted them to a competitive score of 281/8. The Indians lost wickets regularly after Sehwag and had no momentum especially in the last ten overs, which could have been important in the match's context. Having scored the runs on the board, it was always handy, as the team chasing in these conditions had to weigh the burdens of pressure and weather on its shoulders.

Pakistani Chase :-

With a target of 282 to achieve for Pakistan in what looked like a slowing wicket, the start was to be crucial for them. Openers Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal started well for the Pakistanis by putting the opposition under a bit of pressure. Salman, especially batted very well in his brief stay in the middle, but Kamran Akmal provided India with its maiden wicket, being caught by Virender Sehwag at short point. Salman Butt soon followed suit, as he nudged one in the air only to be caught well by Saurav Ganguly. It almost seemed like a procession, when Shoaib Malik also departed caught by Yuvraj off Balaji for almost nothing to his credit and Pakistan reeling at 49/3. It was imperative that senior batsmen like Yousuf Youhana and Inzamam ul-Haq stay on the wicket if Pakistan had to recover from these early strikes. Inzamam released his early nerves by playing some shots, but Youhanna at the other end was literally struggling. Youhanna's uncomfortable stay at the wicket ended, when Zaheer Khan took a brilliant return catch to send him back for a nought. Mohammad Hafeez later joined Inzy and added 40-odd runs, after a Tendulkar sneaker surprised everyone including Inzamam, with Pakistani hopes dashing at 112/5. After getting rid of Inzamam, Tendulkar was on a wicket-hunt this time around and his spell of consistent bowling brought the downfall of as many as 5 Pakistani batsmen. With Pakistan out of the game at 156/9, it was only a matter of time before the Indians claimed first blood in the 6 match series. Rana Naveed and Arshad Khan were partly successful in delaying the inevitable, but Zaheer Khan's straight ball brought an end to both Rana Naveed and Pakistan's innings at 194, with the home side winning by 87 runs. Although the margin was brought closer by the last pair that lasted for 42 runs, the match had already ended once Pakistan got itself into a tangle, from where they literally could not have recovered. With one match done and dusted, the Pakistanis would have to bounce back at Vizag, if they seriously want to have a shout at the Pepsi Cup.

Our Verdict :-

It was not exactly a kind of match, as the build-up suggested. It was a game, where fortune favoured the brave, especially Sehwag after being dropped twice. But, to come up with the kind of innings that he along with Dravid did, summed up the game. Sachin Tendulkar's brilliance with the ball also meant, that Pakistan were exposed against the line he bowled. For Pakistan, there are lot of lessons to be learnt from this game, especially when they traded complacency for a win with the Indians. Time to get serious for both teams, as yet another important clash beckons at Vizag, and its importance cannot be doubted, as it dictates the momentum of the ODI series. Hopefully, in Vizag we get to see a more intense contest between the bat and the ball and as a fence-sitter would say "May the Best Team Win".