Bhajji six seals the deal in fiery clash
India defeated Pakistan by three wickets in a thrilling finish on Saturday to knock their arch-rivals out of the four-nation Asia Cup limited-overs tournament. Bivabasu Kumar reports. Scorecardcricket Updated: Jun 20, 2010 01:39 IST
Pakistan-India matches are often called war minus the shooting, and though the rhetoric has been toned down recently, there was no shortage of aggression as India pulled of a stunning win with one ball to spare in Dambulla.
Chasing 268, India start well, with Gautam Gambhir (83), anchoring the innings. But if the first half of the chase was about reliability, the grandstand finish was provided by the volatile Harbhajan Singh, who refused to take a backward step.
The stage was set in the 47th over when Harbhajan - with 36 needed from 24 - clattered Shoaib Akhtar for a sweetly-timed six over wide long-on. The unhappy fast bowler replied a couple of overs later, giving Harbhajan an earful after the lower-order batsman played and missed at a bouncer. Umpire Billy Doctrove intervened to separate the pair, but not before a heated exchange.
With India losing wickets, and their way in the chase, 7 runs were needed from Mohammad Aamer's last over. With Suresh Raina (34) run out off the second ball, a couple and a single pinched, three runs were required off the last two balls when Harbhajan drilled a length ball into the stands over midwicket. Game in the bag, Harbhajan let out a full-throated roar, remembering to tur to Shoaib at third-man to let him know exactly what he felt. Full of grace as ever, the fast bowler shot Harbhajan the V-sign, a clear indication of just how much the match meant to both teams.
At a time when the future of ODI cricket itself is under threat, India and Pakistan had once again produced a thriller. But it did not seem that way when Shahid Afridi won chose to bat first on a sluggish pitch.
Adopting a safety-first approach openers Salman Butt and Imran Farhat rode out a probing initial spell of bowling from Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar. Both bowlers beat the bat regularly, but Pakistan's batsmen did well to hang in there. A 71-run opening stand set the tone, and Butt pressed on, holding the Pakistan innings together even as India's bowlers chipped away. Eventually run out for 74, Butt, backed up by late cameos from Shahid Afridi (32) and Kamran Akmal (51) pushed Pakistan to 267.
India's chase got off to a most inauspicious start when Virender Sehwag suffered a hip injury and summoned a runner. He wasn't to last long and only Gambhir's intense vigil (83) kept India in the hunt. Dhoni strung together a useful 54, but when India slumped to 219 for 6, Pakistan were back in the game. It was then that Harbhajan did his thing.