CRICKET / From 113 for three, Pakistan loses its last seven wickets for 44 to fall 10 runs short; Dhoni is man-of-the-match
Being hurt is less painful than being humiliated. At present, none understands the feeling of misery better than M.S. Dhoni and his battered men. On the brink of being blanked in a home one-day series for the first time in nearly three decades, India lifted itself to pull-off a dramatic 10-run victory and spoil the taste of Pakistan’s series triumph.
Going by India’s poor form, few expected the host to defend 167. The writing was on the wall when Pakistan reached 113 for three with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal looking to finish off the job.
But the law of averages finally caught up with Pakistan as it lost its last seven wickets for just 44 runs.
The fall of Misbah triggered off the collapse. Umar Akmal paid for a moment’s madness. Shoaib Malik provided Ishant Sharma the tonic needed to up his appetite for wickets.
Like Pakistan, all Indian bowlers also struck at least once with Ishant delivering telling blows to hasten the end. Ishant who missed an easy run-out of Mohammad Irfan, made amends off the next delivery to end Pakistan’s innings by having danger-man and T20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez caught by an alert Yuvraj.
For the better part of the match, Misbah was eyeing the rare honour of leading Pakistan to a first-ever series sweep against the host. West Indies had blanked India 5-0 in 1983 and Australia won 3-0 in a five-match series in 1984.
India tasted early success through Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s swing bowling. He sent back Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan, bowling 10 overs on the trot to keep Pakistan down to 51 for two in 19 overs.
Thereafter, R. Ashwin scapled an in-form Nasir Jamshed for 34 to bring some joy to the die-hard fans backing the Indians. When Ishant brought one back to trap Shoaib Malik in front, Pakistan needed 49 from 81 deliveries with five wickets in hand.
India’s fightback suffered a blow when Rahane dropped a simple catch when Hafeez was on seven and Pakistan still needed 34 runs.
Umar Gul survived a close leg-before call off Ashwin but holed out off Ishant who went on to finish with three wickets.
Like in the first two encounters, Pakistan’s recipe for India’s disaster had all too familiar ingredients. The pacemen caused a stir upfront before the wizardly spin of Saeed Ajmal provided around 700 Pakistani fans at the ground much to rejoice over.
Playing his 74th match, Ajmal came up with a career-best five for 24, but the effort was pushed to the background once the batsmen let the team down.
Dealing with Mohammad Irfan continued to be a tall order for the openers. He had a confident Rahane caught behind, and sent back Gautam Gambhir. Showing no signs of learning from his recent dismissals, the left-hander again fell in his bid to run an away-going ball down to third man.
When Virat Kohli was foxed by Junaid Khan, the cream of batting was gone for just 37 in the 10th over.
Before long, Pakistan struck with spin. Yuvraj Singh started with two successive boundaries for a run-a-ball 23 before misreading a quicker one from Mohammad Hafeez.
Suresh Raina and Dhoni managed to raise 48 runs in under 13 overs. Before Ajmal cast a spell, man-of-the-match Dhoni hit three sixes off Hafeez in the space of four deliveries spread over two overs. The Indian skipper was lucky when the brave bowler could not hold on to a reflex-catch. The rasping stroke struck Hafeez’s left-hand and the bowler needed medical attention.
But Dhoni did not last long. He offered a catch at point to become Umar Gul’s lone victim before Ajmal went to complete the demolition act.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar — dropped by Younis Khan whose failed attempt ended with the ball hitting the helmet placed behind wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal — was Ajmal’s third leg-before victim before Ishant and Jadeja joined the casualty list.