It is getting closer and closer all the time. The tight finishes are not doing our nerves any good -- they are stretched to the limit anyway -- but they have certainly added more charm to the revived series. Fans on both sides of the border now know what they were missing all these years.
It feels great to be 2-1 up and suddenly everyone is calling us the favourites. Some are even backing us to win 4-1. However, I am the last person to get carried away because I know cricket matches are won on the ground and not in thin air.
The Peshawar game, like a pendulum, swung one way, then the other, before Abdur Razzaq and Moin Khan saw us through. The presence of all-rounders of Razzaq, Moin and Shoaib Malik’s calibre adds a lot of depth to our batting.
But for young Yasir Hameed's dazzling 98 earlier on, Razzaq would have won the the Man of the Match award as he bowled well, too.
Razzaq need not worry though. He lost out to a teammate who played an innings of sheer class. On a pitch that aided fast bowlers all day, Hameed hardly played a false shot.
Fluent cover drives and wristy elegance on the leg side flowed from his bat. My heart went out to him when he missed his hundred, but he need not worry.I am sure there will be other occasions. On Friday, his 98 was worth many more because it won the game for Pakistan.
There was another positive for Pakistan from this game -- Shabbir Ahmed. What a beauty he bowled to get rid of Sachin Tendulkar! That ball stood out in his terrific first over that seemed to go on forever.
It pitched on the off stump and moved away late. Tendulkar had to play at it and got a faint edge. He then went on to rip the heart out of the Indian batting, getting rid of Sehwag and Laxman in the process, fully justifying my decision to give him the new ball.
Shabbir's spell lifted our spirits because I had earlier failed to grasp a Sehwag offering at first slip off Shoaib Akhtar and my decision of putting India in again looked like getting me into trouble.
Akthar bowled a fiery first spell. He perhaps had a point or two to make after a whisper campaign against him in the media that some say originated from the Indian camp. Razzaq and Sami too did their bit to ease our bowling concerns considerably. However, we need to do much better on the field.
Now, it is on to Lahore for the last two games. We hold the advantage at this stage, but by no means the series has been won. We would like to finish it off on Sunday itself so that the tension eases in the fifth game. It won't be easy. India's batting has far too much class and experience to fail repeatedly. It is their bowling in the middle overs that is letting them down.
They are missing a few of their frontline bowlers and relying too much on part-timers to do the job in the mid-innings. We have done our homework well and have taken full toll of them so far.
With an unsettled bowling lineup, the Indians are not sure what is a 'safe' total for them. We will try and cash in on this uncertainty in the final phase of the psychological warfare in Lahore. India have to win to stay alive in the series. We will try and ram home the advantage we hold at this stage -- 3-1 is the first target, 4-1 a distant dream.