Everything looked just perfect. Sachin Tendulkar became the most-capped player in ODIs, and celebrated the grand occasion with a superb 99-run knock to help India put up an almost invincible 321 on board.
But that perfect script went awry when Younis Khan upstaged him with a magnificent century to take Pakistan to the threshold of victory. Then, a typical Afridi blitzkrieg pushed them home with four wickets to spare on the penultimate ball of the match to square the series.
Tendulkar's knock was the cornerstone around which the Indian innings was built. It gave India a head start right at the outset after Dhoni decided to take on Shoaib Akhtar and company on what turned out a quick and bouncy wicket.
Pakistan, in reply, came out with a valiant chase, spearheaded by that brilliant century from Younis. After a decent start, Younis took charge and kept the chase on with some crucial partnerships. Though Butt (37) and Malik (25) failed to stay on, he stood firmly at the other end, guiding the Pakistani chase past one impediment after the other.
For much of the time, though, India were in control and looked the favourites, but a scintillating 102 fifth-wicket partnership between Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq (49) changed the course of the game. India looked like they were sneaking back into the game when Younis (117) and Misbah fell with some distance still to go for victory, but some lusty hits from Afridi (29no) propelled Pakistan home with four wickets to spare.
Earlier, Pakistan immediately showed their liking for the wicket when Shoaib forced Ganguly to inside-edge one on to his stumps in the very first over. This encouraged the Pakistan bowlers, who tested Tendulkar and Gambhir for a while with some short-pitched stuff. However, they couldn't tie them down completely as good balls were invariably followed by some ordinary deliveries, relieving the pressure on the batsmen.
And that gave Tendulkar time to get the measure of the wicket. And once he did, the fielders were running all over to get hold off the ball. He opened up by hitting three boundaries off Gul in one of his overs, and then there was no stopping him.
Gambhir, on the other hand, played a sedate innings, allowing Tendulkar to dominate. But even as whole attention was on Tendulkar, Gambhir ploughed on quietly, and reached his half-century almost unnoticed.
With these two on a roll, the Pakistani quicks looked clueless. Even the introduction of the spinners brought no relief as they found Sachin equal to the task here again. He would either deftly cut them or brutally smash them, with the same result.
Things began looking up only when Gul returned and dismissed Tendulkar for 99. But by then, he and Gambhir had stitched together a partnership of 173 - the highest on the ground - to put India in the driver's seat. Gambhir, too, departed soon for 57, to raise some hopes for Pakistan.
Thereafter, Pakistan managed to claw their way back, before throwing it away again, thanks to a 20-ball, 38-run cameo by Harbhajan towards the end and their own undisciplined bowling which saw then conceding as many as 41 extras.
But a splendid batting performance later made up for this tardy show. It's a happy Diwali in India again for them.
Team (from Pakistan)
Shoaib Malik (capt), Younis Khan, Salman Butt, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh.
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG) and Suresh Shastri (IND)
TV umpire: Amish Saheba (IND)
Match referee: Roshan