Under pressure Pakistan came good in all the three departments of the game to upset a strong Indian team in the big final of the Kitply Cup. India made too many mistakes which included Captaincy and batting blunders to lose the match which looked to be under their control because of their attractive batting line up. Pakistan had set the match up with a grand total and it was upto their bowlers to strike regularly with wickets. Although India lost the game, there were plenty of positives to take and one of them was to take the match almost to the wire.
Pakistan set the match up with a big total
Shoaib Malik and his team were very nervous going into this game but they did have the advantage of practicing very hard for the last 2-3 days. Malik won the toss and decided to bat first with the only team change being Fawad Alam in for Wahab Riaz. Dhoni also made just the one change by getting back Ishant Sharma for RP Singh. Openers Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal gave a cautious start after the match had started 10 minutes late because of a short rain spell. The two openers survived the new ball and just when Akmal was looking to step up the gear came the first breakthrough. Akmal (15 from 26 with 3 fours) got caught behind off Irfan Pathan as his team were at a modest 34 for 1 in 9.3 overs. Younis Khan, who came into this match with two ducks started his innings in style with a first ball-four. He raised his bat to the crowd for getting his first runs of the tournament and after that never looked back.
Younis Khan was extremely calm and relaxed and his confidence and experience helped Salman Butt to consolidate in his sheet anchor’s role. Both the batsmen exposed the weaklings in the Indian bowling which couldn’t bowl many wicket taking deliveries. Dhoni had to use as many as 8 bowlers but none of them really looked good to dislodge this pair. As the spinners came on, Younis and Butt were targeting a boundary an over and mixing them up with ones and twos sensibly. Pakistan’s first two fifties took quite some time but then later on accelerated superbly through the big hitting off the slower bowlers. The partnership had taken Pakistan from what could have been a modest 230 total to something close to 300. Both batsmen got their respective hundreds as well in the process. For Butt, it was his fifth one against India in just 18 innings and for Younis, his second one against this team.
Pakistan piled up 315 for 3 on the board in their allotted 50 overs. The feeling was that the target was chaseable and that they had fallen short by 15 runs or so. Salman Butt top scored with 129 from 136 balls with 12 fours and 3 sixes before retiring hurt in the 46th over. Butt was dropped early in his innings at short point by Rohit Sharma which was a difficult chance to his right. Younis Khan played an energetic innings right from the start and ended up with 108 from just 99 balls with 8 fours and 3 sixes which later gave him the Player of the Match award. For India, Praveen Kumar got away with tidy figures of 10-1-37-0 while Ishant was trying too hard to get wickets on a flat track to have figures of 10-0-57-0. Piyush Chawla had a disastrous day as he went for 10-0-85-0!
Over aggressiveness brings the downfall of Indian batting
Despite putting up 315, Pakistan were feeling nervous about the strong Indian batting line-up. And their first confidence booster came when Virender Sehwag (2 from 8) spooned a simple catch to mid off after getting a leading edge off Sohail Tanvir in the 2nd over itself. That wicket pumped up the Pakistanis but Gautam Gambhir was making sure that India didn’t feel the pinch of losing Viru early. The left hander played some dazzling shots off Umar Gul and in the company of Rohit Sharma was hitting back at the fielding side with lot of force. India coasted along beautifully through this partnership and the only bowler who was looking threatening – Sohail Tanvir was seen off as well. The turning point came in the 11th over when Rohit Sharma played a short arm jab off an Umar Gul bouncer to hole out at fine leg. Rohit threw his wicket away after looking so good for his 24 from 27 with 5 fours. In his next over, Umar Gul and substitute fielder Nasir Jamshed combined again as Gautam Gambhir played an uppish cut straight to third man! The magnificent start to his innings was wasted by his over aggressiveness and the stylish left hander’s damage was cut down to 40 from 33 balls which had 4 fours and a six.
India were at 79 for 3 in the 13th over and they just couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan, the no.4 were under pressure to keep their wickets intact. The asking rate was always under control but still the tactics of going after the bowling was maintained by the Indians. This certainly wasn’t required and what was needed was a sensible partnership. Yusuf Pathan was just like Gambhir, playing sensational shots but only throwing it away too soon with a reckless shot. He got out flicking one straight to short mid wicket having got 25 from 25 with 4 fours. The next batsman Suresh Raina showed good maturity and he batted out sensibly with Yuvraj to steady the ship. The runs were still coming thick and fast as Yuvraj took calculated risks. An innocuous full toss from left arm spinner Fawad Alam broke this dangerous partnership as Raina (24 from 32 with 2 fours) heaved it straight into the hands of Afridi in the deep. A few overs later, it was match over as Yuvraj (56 from 59 balls with 5 fours and a six) got a nick behind after trying to pull a quicker one from Afridi. India slipped to 187 for 6 in about 32 overs.
It appeared as if it was just a matter of time before Pakistan bowled out India. But the Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan had other ideas. They built a partnership steadily and then when the crunch time came, the big shots were unveiled to bring back life in the match. However, during the final onslaught, Irfan Pathan lost his touch to play out some dot balls which made it very difficult for India. Irfan Pathan (28 from 35 with a four and a six) fell in the 44th over through a miscued hit to leave everything on Dhoni at 247 for 7. Although Dhoni was determined to give his best shot at the difficult target, he had the big problem of running out of partners. Domestic level all rounders Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla failed to give the support. And now India was left with just the one wicket and with 32 needed from two overs. Afridi bowling the penultimate over was struck by a magical blow from MSD which flew like a rocket into the second tier of the stadium towards mid wicket. The next ball which was slightly wide and full was lofted with a not so straight bat and the result was a simple catch at sweeper covers! That was the end of the match but full credit had to be given to the Indian Captain for playing a great knock which went in vain. India got bowled out for 290 in 48.2 overs.
Dhoni had got 64 from 59 with 3 fours and 2 sixes as India went down fighting by 25 runs. Umar Gul was the most successful bowler with 9-0-57-4 and he had comeback beautifully every time he was taken to te cleaners. While the Man of the Match was Younis Khan, the Player of the Series surprisingly went to Salman Butt rather than Gautam Gambhir!