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India pull off spectacular win

Karthik saves the day for hosts as they beat WI by 20 runs, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay. See pics | Full Scorecard

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 13:41 IST

It was payback time for the batsmen after the binge in Nagpur. Having smacked the bowlers at will on a flat pitch in the first ODI, they saw the other side of life on a treacherous Barabati Stadium track where the ball kept low, came slower than expected and turned. Still, happily for India, they managed to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series.

Fingers will be pointed (and rightly so) at the pitch, which was in complete contrast to the type one is used to when it comes to one-day cricket in India. The wicketkeeper was collecting the ball from below his knees even when it was new and hard. But what might and should not escape attention is that there were soft dismissals on either side, which made Wednesday's match a low-scoring affair.

There were two exemplary batting efforts too — by Dinesh Karthik and Shivnarine Chanderpaul — which showed runs could be scored if a player applied himself and grafted instead of trying to force the pace. And of course, there was that 62-run eighth-wicket stand between Karthik and Ajit Agarkar, which proved to be the turning point of the match.

Before the game, Rahul Dravid remarked that the batsmen wouldn't have the best of days and that he felt he was correct became evident when he chose to bat despite the dew factor that makes bowling difficult in the second session. But while the slowness of the wicket did result in a few dismissals, it was not the sole reason behind India's top-order dysfunction that reduced them to 91 for seven after 31 overs.

Gautam Gambhir nicked one down leg, Sachin Tendulkar attempted a chip over mid-on without getting to the pitch of the ball, while Joginder Sharma let one through the gap between bat and pad.

An early close was looking imminent before Karthik and Agarkar came together and gave India something to defend in the course of their 9.2-over association. The wicketkeeper-turned-batsman in particular, showed both commonsense and the confidence that stems from a good outing as an opener in South Africa.

Given that the spinners were going to play a key role and that Brian Lara was not there, the West Indies needed a typically brisk start from Chris Gayle. The stand-in captain got one in the second over that kept low and this pushed his team on the back foot straightaway. The going was slow even in the days of powerplays and the pressure kept building.

Coming in at 42 for three in the 16th over, Dwayne Bravo started attacking the spinners but the situation changed again when Ramesh Powar struck twice in the 27th. The off-spinner got a lot of turn and redeemed himself somewhat after falling to an appalling shot. The one that bowled Runako Morton spun a long way into the right-hander.

Chanderpaul kept his cool all this while and was playing the ball late, like Karthik, and kept his team in the match with a 50-run stand with Dwayne Smith. The partnership had begun to look threatening when Tendulkar lured Smith into a needless heave over mid-wicket and when Denesh Ramdin played an equally reckless shot in Powar's last over, the match was almost over.

The pitch and India's second straight win under trying circumstances might push many things to the background, but the way the batting crumbled again meant there is work to do and plans to be made once the sweet taste of success after days of despair sinks in.