S. Dinakar

Sachin Tendulkar and Salman Butt crack hundreds

Pakistan won by seven runs under the D/L method India made only 23 runs in the last five oversSachin becomes the first to cross 14,000 ODI runs

Peshawar: It was an extraordinary match that tested nerves and finally ended under near darkness. And it was fading light that eventually decided the outcome.

Pakistan won by seven runs under the Duckworth and Lewis method to grab a 1-0 lead in the five-match Hutch ODI series. India fought well, but paid the price for some tardy cricket in the end overs of its innings.

The last five overs produced only 23 runs for India, with two deliveries remaining unutilised. India, inserted, was coasting at 266 for three in 40 overs and should surely have stretched its innings beyond the 350-run mark.

Pakistani pacemen Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Mohammad Asif operated well at the `Death', but the Indian batsmen also lost the plot. It was at this point that the contest was decided.

The Indian think-tank had burnt midnight oil to come up with the strategy to lengthen its batting line-up since the side was playing one batsman less.

Pathan at No. 3 and Dhoni at No. 4 provided the batting more depth in the sense that Mohammed Kaif arrived at No. 7.

But did the tactic leave India short of an explosive batsman at the finish?

Set an achievable target (under the conditions) of 329 in 50 overs, Pakistan was 311 for seven in 47 overs when vice-captain Younis Khan (18 not out) and Rana Naved (11 not out) accepted the offer of light.

Pakistan was always ahead on the Duckworth and Lewis equation.

Batting paradise

On a belter of a pitch, a fast outfield and a small ground, runs were never going to be a problem. It was a day when the fielders were chasing leather for most part.

And the impressive Asif, with figures of three for 30 in 9.4 overs of control and craft, delivered the performance of the match in a batsmen-dominated match.

The wiry paceman consistently hit the seam and seldom erred in length or direction. Salman Butt walked away with the Man of the Match award, but Asif emerged Pakistan's hero once again.

It threatened to rain the whole day, but never did. Instead, the downpour at the Arbab Niaz Stadium was in the form of fours and sixes.

Sachin regains touch

Sachin Tendulkar used his experience to fight his way back to form. He was circumspect early on, had his share of good fortune at 21 when he was castled off a Rana Naved no-ball, but cashed in to construct an innings of substance.

During his 39th ODI hundred, Tendulkar became the first batsman to cross 14,000 ODI runs.

Opener Butt's 101 (111b, 15x4) was a key effort at the top of the order. He is a southpaw with a compact technique, decisive footwork and a wide range of strokes.

The elegant Shoaib Malik, who eased into his drives and hit the ball long and hard, made a wonderful 67-ball 90 (9x4, 3x6). Earlier in the day, he had plucked the ball out of thin air at point when Dhoni square-cut Asif ferociously.

The Indians were right when they opted for a five-man attack, even if this meant that in the absence of the injured Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik would be the lone specialist spinner in the line-up.

Dravid decided to bowl Pathan out in his first spell; the left-armer was fairly economical but failed to strike. S. Sreesanth generated pace, and did bowl better than his figures indicate.

Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar were adequate and left-armer Kartik, after taking a pounding early on, sent down a couple of fine overs at the end that opened up possibilities for India before light had the final say.

Bizarre dismissal

There was much drama too, when skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq was ruled out obstructing the field. Inzamam, at least two yards out of the crease, showed a defensive bat to a throw from cover and had to return back.

The Pakistani, who seemed to be struggling with his fitness, had a conversation with the umpires before walking back.

There was disappointment for the home fans when Mohammad Kaif, swooping on the ball in a flash, scored a direct hit at the non-striker's end to run out Shahid Afridi, but they returned home a jubilant lot.

Earlier, Asif consumed Virender Sehwag with a delivery that bounced more than the Indian expected outside the off-stump, but Tendulkar appeared keen on a lengthy stint.

The Mumbaikar played the second fiddle to Pathan and Dhoni and as his innings progressed, found his touch and range.

Pathan (65, 65b, 12x4, 1x6) pulled and drove with typical panache and confidence.

Dhoni powered his way to a 53-ball 68 (11x4, 1x6), an effort of unbridled aggression. And Yuvraj Singh delighted during his 28-ball 39. He picked the length quickly and hit through the line to find the gaps.

Pakistan was without pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, whose ankle strain flared up on the morning of the contest. Umar Gul received an unexpected look-in and found the going hard...like most bowlers, save Asif, the man who made the difference.

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