Sachin Tendulkar stars as India clinches series

Nandita Sridhar

Yuvraj, Dhoni combine well yet again to take the team home

Gwalior: There was a slight touch of eeriness to it. Sachin Tendulkar batted in a trance for 97 runs and fell to a single show of mortality. It has happened before in this series, and four times before that since June.

The blame has shifted from the stars to the nervous nineties; but the unfortunate part of his dismissals has been the injustice they’ve done to the knocks. On Thursday, there were 97 sublime runs before the inside-edge to the stumps.

Those runs won the match for India, which clinched the series 3-1, with a match to go on Sunday. For the record, Mohammed Yousuf was left stranded on an unbeaten 99, during Pakistan’s innings.

Brilliant knock

Tendulkar’s first fifty runs happened in a daze. Each shot was executed to outdo its predecessor. The roll of the wrists to the square-leg boundary was followed by the tiptoe punch through extra-cover. Then came the ruler-straight hit that nearly took the stumps with it, and the inside-out caress to point. The remaining forty-odd offered lessons on playing spin. Perfect cohesion of foot-work and hand-eye co-ordination, it was vintage Tendulkar.

Offered the best seat in the house, Virender Sehwag (who came in for Murali Kartik) was initially content in giving Tendulkar the strike. He soon came into his own, with the six over mid-wicket reminiscent of the shot that got him his Test triple-hundred.

Umar Gul brought forth his tendency to bowl his best only to Tendulkar in his nineties.Yuvraj Singh and captain M.S. Dhoni put together a partnership that assured all that Tendulkar’s efforts wouldn’t be wasted.

Both batted without compromising on the run-rate, and took India past Pakistan’s target with enough to spare. Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik had by then run out of options and was forced into using Salman Butt in the last over. India was the deserving winner.

Yousuf stranded

Prior to Tendulkar’s brilliance, Mohammad Yousuf took Pakistan to a score of some respectability. He began quietly, on a pitch that was gasping for breath.

One had to struggle to spot signs of life that were either non-existent or well disguised. The occasional use of his wrists for a boundary over mid-wicket and the inside-out shot through the covers assured all that Yousuf’s intent did not completely mirror the pitch. The Pakistani innings began with a bit of comic irony, after Shoaib Malik chose to bat.

Malik promoted himself up the order to support Salman Butt, after the latter couldn’t garner enough support from either Kamran Akmal or Shahid Afridi. The move seemed sensible till Butt was trapped plumb by a straightening R.P. Singh delivery in the second ball of the match.

Malik and Younis Khan dug in for what seemed an eternity. They crawled through their overs despite an anticipatory air surrounding their partnership. People were waiting for something, a wicket or even a brief rush of runs.

Ganguly’s feat

The lone incident was restricted to Younis Khan’s reprieve, courtesy a dropped chance by captain M.S. Dhoni off Irfan Pathan. Sourav Ganguly was given a bowl and scalped his 100th victim in ODIs. His harmless straight one deceived Afridi into attempting the paddle-sweep. He was trapped lbw. Ganguly became only the third player in ODI history to manage the double of 10,000 runs and 100 wickets, after Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Yousuf put together 94 runs, with the former’s violent hits adding some pace to the scoring-rate. The last 10 overs produced 77 runs for Pakistan.

SCOREBOARDPakistan: Salman Butt lbw b Rudra Pratap 0, Shoaib Malik b Zaheer 31, Younis Khan c and b Yuvraj 68, Mohammad Yousuf (not out) 99, Shahid Afridi lbw b Ganguly 1, Misbah-ul-Haq b Pathan 40, Sohail Tanvir lbw b Zaheer 6, Kamran Akmal (not out) 2, Extras (lb-6, w-2): 8; Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 255.Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Butt), 2-78 (Malik), 3-129 (Younis), 4-134 (Afridi), 5-228 (Misbah), 6-243 (Tanvir). India bowling: R.P. Singh 10-1-53-1, Pathan 10-1-52-1, Zaheer 10-0-40-2, Harbhajan 10-0-52-0, Yuvraj 3-0-12-1, Sehwag 2-0-11-0, Ganguly 5-0-29-1.India: S. Ganguly c Younis b Akhtar 5, S. Tendulkar b Gul 97, G. Gambhir c Tanvir b Iftikhar 3, V. Sehwag (run out) 43, Yuvraj Singh (not out) 53, M.S. Dhoni (not out) 45, Extras (lb-8, w-6): 14; Total (for four wkts. in 46.3 overs) 260.Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Ganguly), 2-48 (Gambhir), 3-155 (Sehwag), 4-159 (Tendulkar).India bowling: Akhtar 10-0-49-1, Tanvir 7-1-43-0, Gul 8-0-42-1, Iftikhar 10-0-35-1, Afridi 10-0-67-0, Butt 1.3-0-16-0.

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