Match Report (India - Pak) September 19, 2004 - Pak innings
Pakistan did us a favour and didn't make Afridi open. He is the joker in the pack, really ... a slogger at best, he could have gotten out for zero or taken the match away in the first five overs. Ok, so whenever he came in, he would still be a danger but at least doesn't demoralize us at the very start.
Irafan Pathan opened the Indian attack and made the ball talk in the air and off the pitch ... the very first over had one swinging away from the left hander and continuing the away movement after pitching and Imran Farhat did a Ganguly through to the keeper.
His very next over had one pitch outside off and take off with high bounce, the natural left arm bowler's angle deceiving Shoaib Malik into nibbling at it ... Dravid taking another simple chance. Look out for Malik though ... he and Michael Clarke of Australia are currently the hottest among the new bunch.
The other end saw Nehra opening and later being replaced with Agarkar ... both bowlers looking pedestrian at best. Balaji has been bowling well of late and rather than missing Zaheer, I think India would have been missing Balaji more simply coz he was a bowler in form. Instead of Nehra and Agarkar at the other end, had it been Balaji in his form of late, India might have inflicted un-recoverable punishment on Pakistan.
However, Pathan still wasn't done ... he used the bouncer a lot, usually one per over if not more (being aided by the fact that many of his bouncers didn't go above permissible limits), and Yasir Hameed hooked it straight to Nehra at deep fine leg, who juggled it before clasping it to his chest. Three down and India was back in the match.
Inzy and Youhanna repaired the Pakistan innings ... both of them played calmly and without too much of a hurry ... the asking rate wasn't much anyway ... and the runs started coming steadily. Youhanna looked the more dangerous of the two as he was scoring faster than his partner but we know how dangerous Inzy can be ... if we had to win, we had to get both.
The breakthrough came from totally un-expected quarters ... Bhajji had looked pedestrian, having gone defensive after some runs were scored against him ... Aggu and Nehra had looked worse ... Ganguly had tried his arm at bowling and didn't look like achieving anything useful ... and then Agarkar came back for his second spell ... and an innocuous looking delivery outside off had Inzy dabbing him through to the keeper. Who cares ... Inzy out ... Inzy out. Bring out the bottles!!!
Razzak came in, and without too much of a fuss, went back ... a Sehwag delivery, looking totally harmless, spun in and the batsman chopped it onto his stumps ... really, top order batsmen would be embarassed to get out that way. Moin was taken out by Yuveraj (though the wicket went to Nehra) .... Moin smacked Nehra hard and the ball went flying through point region ... and Yuveraj went flying to his right and got both hands to the ball ... he was completely in the air, though not completely horizontal, when he caught that one ... SET MAX showed us a counter that showed that the ball reached Yuveraj's hands on 0.7 seconds .... seeing that he dived way out of his normal position, that shows great reflexes. There was a time when Jadeja and Robin used to be considered India's answer to the Rhodes and Pontings of the world ... that is nonsense ... Jadeja and Robin were quick and that is all that could be said for them ... they were never great fielders inside the circle .... Kaif and Yuveraj can stake a challenge, though ... they will never match a Rhodes but they r way way better than the Jadeja and Robin combination.
Anyway, the next few overs finished off the match ... uptil that time, Pakistan had an asking rate that wouldn't have scared them but still would have given hope to the Indians ... Afridi came in and Ganguly brought back Pathan. One thing about Pathan ... in his first spell, during his first two overs, he pitched the ball up more often than not and got plenty of movement in the air and off the pitch .... but towards the middle of his spell, he decided for some reason to change tactics and kept the ball shorter than usual .... he didn't go for much in his first spell but his overs 4-7 were not really dangerous ... overs 1-3 were dangerous.
Anyway, whatever Irfan's limitations, courage is not one of them ... he bounced Afridi first ball ... and Afridi loves a scrap as much as the next guy around ... the ball went screaming over square leg for a huge six. The next ball was pitched way too much forward and on the middle stump and Afridi crashed it for another six over long on. Tell me one thing - Afridi is a lottery, we all know that. We all also know how strongly he is built and how powerfully he can hit the ball .... why the heck was Pathan bowling without men on the boundary? The second six ... ok, so maybe Afridi wouldn't have tried it if a man had been present, but had a man been present and Afridi tried that shot, the Afridi innings would have been over. Speculations apart, when u know the man is a slogger, why not put men on the boundary? I think India expected Afridi to show some sense coz of being the new man in and Afridi fooled them by not showing any sense whatsoever. Anyway, Afridi continued slogging his guts out ... one huge shot on the off looking like it would go for six and finally landing inside the boundary and not even rolling over ... the batsmen had stopped running thinking it to be a four and finally they ran two.
India had the match when Moin got out .... u don't require too much of brains to get Afridi out, for god's sake .... but Pathan showed his immaturity and gave away the match he had almost snatched from the Pakistani grip. Guys like Afridi have no idea of the finer points of cricket ... movement, swing and seam would leave them clueless ... but bounce them hard and they know how to knock u out of the park ... our bad luck, Pathan tried the wrong tactic. One could see his confidence shattered after that attack .... finally, our best bowler didn't bowl his full quota of overs ... and that says it all.
Anyway, Yuveraj came into bowl and took out Afridi ... it was clear Afridi was gonna try to hit everything for six and it was a matter of time ... he holed out to Sehwag at long on.
There was some drama when Rana came out ... and Youhanna got cramp ... there was still the possibility of India squeezing through ... but finally, "mar-mar ke" Pakistan crossed the target with a few balls of the last over to spare.
Neither team played great cricket ... but they scrapped like hell ... Pakistan scrapped better ... they won.