Yuvraj Singh had a perfect game on Sunday. He scored a superb 77, ran out the dangerous Mohammad Yousuf, picked up the wicket of Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik, and, above all, helped India go 2-1 up and wrest the initiative. The left-hander powered India to a challenging 294 and then joined the bowlers to snuff the life out of Pakistan's chase, restricting them to 248 for a 46-run victory.
The visitors' reply was shaped by opener Salman Butt's terrific 129. He threatened to take them home single-handedly, but in the end the task proved too big to be achieved without support.
In contrast, the Indian innings hinged mainly around two partnerships, a 68-run opening partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and a 100-run stand between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj for the fourth wicket. The lower order then provided the final thrust to post what proved to be a match-winning total.
India were off to an adventurous start with Sachin and Sourav unleashing some good strokes. Umar Gul troubled Ganguly, but the flow of runs continued. The openers kept playing some delectable strokes and India cruised past the 50-mark in quick time.
Sohail Tanvir put the brakes on when he removed Sachin (29) and Ganguly (39) in quick succession. Gambhir and Yuvraj found scoring tough and the momentum seemed lost.
The innings picked up only after Dhoni strode in at the fall of Gambhir. Yuvraj started the fireworks by hoisting Abdur Rehman for two sixes in an over. Dhoni joined in and that opened up the floodgates and they gathered 100 runs in the next 15 overs.
Dhoni fell for 49, but by then the innings had acquired momentum and the batsmen to follow, along with Yuvraj, didn't take the foot off the accelerator.
Pakistan sprung a surprise by sending Afridi to open. The fiery batsman began in his typical cavalier fashion by punching the first ball he faced to the boundary. But if Malik surprised India by sending in Afridi, Dhoni did the same by opening with Irfan Pathan instead of Zaheer Khan. The ploy worked as Pathan sent Afridi back before he could inflict some real damage.
The relief was temporary as Butt took drove, cut and pulled with aplomb to give Pakistan a rousing opening. He and Younis Khan were cruising along when the latter misjudged an incoming RP Singh delivery and saw his stumps rattled.
Akmal substitute sought Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal aggravated his finger injury on Sunday, forcing the team management to ask the Pakistan Cricket Board for a replacement.
Reports from Karachi said that Sarfraz Ahmed, who led Pakistan to the ICC youth World Cup title last year, is expected to be chosen to go.