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Pakistan's turn to inflict misery

Madhu Jawali, Kolkata, Jan 3, 2013, DHNS:
Pakistani players celebrate the fall of an Indian wicket as skipper MS Dhoni looks on during the 2nd ODI cricket match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI Photo

Another batting failure. Another defeat. And another series loss.The Indian cricket team’s shambolic display, which has come to symbolise the brand of cricket it plays these days, extended to New Year as Pakistan inflicted an 85-run defeat on the hosts to clinch the three-match ODI series, establishing an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Pakistan’s last ODI series win against India was in 2005 when they clinched the six-match series 4-2. The final game of the ongoing rubber will be held in Delhi on Sunday.

Despite allowing a century partnership at the top of the order, Indian bowlers had made a splendid comeback to restrict Pakistan to 250 all out in 48.3 overs. The much-pampered Indian batsmen, however, could manage just 165 all out in 48 overs, leaving the packed stadium totally disappointed. Pakistan had built their total, which eventually turned out to be more than competitive, on the back of a solid opening alliance between Nasir Jamshed (106, 124b, 12x4, 2x6) and Mohammad Hafeez (76, 74b, 10x4).

Notwithstanding the prodigious movement the Pakistani seamers managed both off the pitch and in the air, India got off to a decent start with Virender Sehwag looking in control of things. But once his struggling opening partner Gautam Gambhir fell after a scratchy 25-ball 11, the home side hurtled towards defeat on a slowing pitch, never at any stage appearing up to the task.

Junaid Khan (3/39) was once again impressive while Saeed Ajmal (3/20) came up with his best show of the tour yet to anchor a clinical win. MS Dhoni’s unbeaten 54, which came after the situation had turned hopeless for India, could only provide semblance of respectability to the total.

Though it’s not their strongest forte, Indian attack had covered itself in no less glory after preventing Pakistan from running away with the game. Ravindra Jadeja’s (3/41) expected inclusion turned out to be a masterstroke with the left-arm spinner providing the vital opening breakthrough. Having lost the crucial toss in Chennai, Dhoni hit it lucky with the spin of coin this time and had little hesitation in opting to bowl first in overcast conditions.

To his utter dismay, however, Pakistani openers not only survived the testing passage of play but thrived as well. Bhuvneshwar Kumar did nothing more than beating the bat on a few occasions and eliciting some edges which couldn’t be termed genuine chances. Ashok Dinda was nippy but his fetish for bowling bouncers made him quite predictable.

Jamshed, who became the only batsman after his illustrious compatriot Zaheer Abbas to notch up three centuries on the trot against India, and Hafeez experienced some anxious moments but with the rub of the green going their way, the duo put together another 100-plus partnership that appeared to have set the perfect base for the visitors to raise a massive total.

Scoring almost at run-a-ball rate, the left-right combo raced to 141 inside 24 overs when Jadeja, who replaced Rohit Sharma, uprooted a sweeping Hafeez’s middle stump. The right-hander was the first of three top-order batsmen Jadeja scalped. The Saurashtra all-rounder later dismissed Jamshed and Kamran Akmal in the space of three deliveries on his return spell.

While Jadeja certainly got India back in the game, Ishant Sharma (3/34) was no less impressive. Mixing good pace with precision, the gangling paceman gave little away while polishing off the innings with two wickets in his final over that saw Pakistan crumble inside 50 overs.

Between them Jamshed and Hafeez scored 182 (198b) of Pakistan’s 250. While Hafeez continued to be India’s scourge with another meaty performance, Jamshed stroked his way to another triple figure that was more fluent and authoritative than the Chepauk knock four days ago. With Dhoni producing a master-class innings in the first one-dayer, the talented southpaw had missed out on the man of the match award but on the day he had no competition.

And the series win was the perfect icing on the cake.


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