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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Writing online about Cricket after exactly a year. The last time I'd written was exactly a year ago, when I'd written a post on http://cricketworldcup.rediffblogs.com/ after India's defeat on the 23rd of March 2003 in the World Cup Final v/s. Australia. After a year, another match, a 'Final' on the 24th of March 2004 at Lahore v. Pakistan. This time we came up as winners.

A great match, a fitting end to a hard fought and evenly contested series. Inzamam won the toss for the 5th consecutive time and decided to field first as in the 4th one dayer played on the 21st, the dew factor played against their bowlers. Whenever Virender Shewag is at the crease, anytime is the right time for fireworks. The way Virender Sehwag plays, he only has to stay at the wicket for 10 plus overs and we are sure to have a score with a rate of 8 to 9 runs per over. That is the way he plays. However, he plays so in 2 out of 10 matches and in the remaining ones, we've to be satisfied with a blistering 20 to 30 run knock. That's what he did on the 24th, scoring a quickfire 20 with four 4s. One wonders how an opening combination of Virender Sehwag and Shahid Afridi would fare with both going full blast. If those two perform then a score of 600 plus in 50 overs would be a distinct possibility! :-) Just imagine, Virender Sehwag from one end and Shahid Afridi from the other, each out-doing the other in terms of sheer brilliance and natural talent and hand-eye co-ordinated shots!!! :-) :-)

Back to the match of the 24th. Virender Sehwag was out for a quickfire 20, Sachin and Laxman steadied the innings. Sachin was looking good for another hundred, before trying a steer down to third man and getting caught behind of Shabbir. VVS Laxman is a player who is always on trial. Three mediocre scores and people start saying that he should not play. VVS Laxman continued with his dream run in one day internationals this year. Once Laxman gets going and goes beyond the 30s very rarely does he not score a century and that is where Yuvraj Singh should pick up his game. Yuvraj played very well in the Rawalpindi and Lahore (4th ODI) matches. In both the matches after a good start he got out after hitting the ball from the middle of the bat. The beauty of Laxman's batting is in his silken strokes along the ground. Those wristy shots to deliveries pitched on or outside the offstump. In yesterday's match too most of his shots were majestic on the on side and plus he played a couple of good cover drives. I could only watch Laxman's batting after his half century. I missed the first 50 runs of Laxman's batting.

Saurav Ganguly scored 45 before getting caught behind of the bowling of Shoaib Akhtar, who gave a good exhibition of fast bowling, although he did come in for some stick at the end, especially from Balaji who whacked him for a Straight Six. Balaji hititng Shoaib Akhtar for a Straight Six, wow! Yuvraj and Kaif were out in the process of accelerating the run rate. Irfan Pathan is a very good player and a genuine batsman. Irfan Pathan played Shoaib Akhtar with confidence, even hitting him for two consecutive fours, the second one, a dropped catch, the second of the match, for Taufeeq Umar, playing in his first match of the series.

VVS Laxman scored 107 of 104 balls. Why is VVS Laxman always on trial? After a couple of failures, which is normal for any batsman and suddenly there are whispers of removing him? This is ridiculous. A Batsman of the class of VVS Laxman should always be in the Indian One Day Team. Laxman is the kind of a player who can change the game without any hitting. The beauty and timing of Laxman's strokes are a treat to watch. I want to see Laxman's Batting Live on the ground! :-) I've decided that when I've enough money, I'm going to buy a Flat Screen 29" TV, especially for Laxman's batting!! :-)

293 for 7 of 50 overs, exactly the same score as Pakistan in the 4th ODI, what a coincidence. The major factor was Irfan Pathan's bowling and the early breakthroughs provided by Irfan and Balaji. The wickets of the openers, Yasir Hamid and Taufeeq Umar were very crucial. Yasir Hamid, in good touch throughout the series, walked out to play a shot and his offstump took a walk towards the wicketkeeper of Balaji's bowling. Pakistan were one down in the second over. There is a lot of style in Taufeeq Umar's batting and he showed that by hitting Balaji for three boundaries in an over. There is also a similarily in a lot of his shots with that of Saeed Anwar. Irfan Pathan took the wicket of Yousuf Youhana. Yousuf Youhana with his style of playing across the line towards mid-wicket to a ball pitched on the middle, is always going to be a candidate for an LBW decision. Ifran got Youhana LBW and Pakistan were two down with almost next to nothing on the scoreboard. Taufeeq was bowled round his legs by Irfan Pathan, a weakness which India would do well to exploit in the forthcoming test series too. Inzy and Younis Khan tried to steady the innings and they were doing so, until Irfan Pathan, bowled one wide outside the offstump and Younis Khan went for a half-cut, half-drive kind of a shot and Yuvraj at point took a sharp chance. Sachin's catch of Inzamam at deep long-on of the bowling of Kartik, to a shot that was a sure six, changed the match totally in India's favour and Pakistan was 5 down for less than a hundred. Razzaq gave a catch to Sehwag of Balaji (I didn't see that wicket, the cable connection was not on), and Pakistan was 90 odd for 6. Shoaib Malik, he can be a genuine all-rounder, and Moin Khan built the innings and then from the 35th over or so with the required run-rate in the range of 9 to 10 runs per over, Moin Khan started hitting alongwith Shoaib. Shoaib Malik was out for a vey well-made 65, caught in the deep by Kaif of the bowling of Sehwag. Till the time Shoaib Malik was there along with Moin Khan the match wasn't over. With seven wickets down and more than 9 per over for the next 10 overs was going to be a difficult ask for Pakistan. However, Mohammed Sami smashed Balaji for a six over cover and Moin hit a six of Sehwag and it seemed like Pakistan had not yet given up the fight. Zaheer bowled a good length in the final overs and got one right in the blockhole to shatter the stumps of Sami and after that Moin was clean bowled by Balaji and India won by 40 runs with Pakistan allout for 253. A good finish in India's favour!

India won the series by 3-2. Man of the Match: VVS Laxman for his 107 runs of 104 balls and that too without more than a couple of lofted shots. :-) Great! Man of the Series: Inzaman-ul-Haq.

India won a humdinger of a clash at Karchi by 5 runs. Pakistan beat us by 12 runs in Rawalpindi. Pakistan won comfortably at Peshawar. India won comfortably, after some initial hiccups at Lahore on the 21st of March, thanks to the Batting of Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Kaif and then India won the Final ODI at Lahore on the 24th of March 2004 by defeating Pakistan by 40 runs. Final Result. India 3. Pakistan 2.

Well Done India! Great bowling Irfan! No one like VVS Laxman! :-) The magic of Laxman's batting and overall team performance in the field paved the way for India's win.

The Test Series starts with the first match in Multan from the 28th of March. Hope it is as exciting!

Bye for now! :-) Chirayu.