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Both sides need to sort out their bowling

Pakistan levelled the one-day series with a win that, like the Indian win in Karachi, wasn't sure till the last ball was bowled, writes Sunil Gavaskar.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2004 00:30 IST

Pakistan levelled the one-day series with a win that, like the Indian win in Karachi, wasn't sure till the last ball was bowled. It is turning out to be a high scoring series and the bowlers of both sides now know the enormity of their tasks. The pitches are real beauties to bat on and once a batsman gets set, it's only his mistake or an overcautious shots that will cost him his wicket.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistani captain, ensured he batted first on winning the toss and the inclusion of Shahid Afridi gave his team just the kind of player who can get the team off to a start. He took his time to settle down since he was making a comeback to the team but then played his usual brand of shots that make him such a dangerous batsman. Yasir Hameed was more correct and more organised and with Balaji and Zaheer not sticking to one line of attack, there were runs to be had.

India introduced Sehwag to see if slowing the pace down would help but Afridi only increased his tempo of scoring. Yuvraj got him when he went for a cross-batted slog and then got Youhana as well. With Hameed getting into a run-out tangle with his skipper and Younis Khan also not capitalising on the start he had got, it looked as if Pakistan would struggle to get to 300.

Nehra had come in to bowl a fine full length and put the brakes on the scoring but Razzaq, who should have been sent earlier, played a blazing knock to take Pakistan to 329. Razzaq is another dangerous batsman and Pakistan must utilise him higher up the order especially if he is not going to complete his full quota of overs as a bowler.

This being the home ground for Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, it was important for him not to lose control as he had in the first one-dayer and with Inzamam cleverly keeping Sami as first change, when the ball was not brand new, the Indian openers were kept in some check.

Akhtar produced an express delivery to go through Sehwag's defence and with Laxman being adjudged leg-before to Sami, Tendulkar had to play a major innings to keep India in the hunt.

The little champion did exactly that as he paced his innings to perfection and produced shots all round the wicket too. His partnership with Dravid gave India hope that they would get to their target but Sami bowled an outstanding spell and there were some soft dismissals like Kaif's and Zaheer's, which made the task look enormous. Still it was good to see the fightback by debutant Powar, who also bowled well, and Balaji that took India close to an impossible win.

Nehra undid the good work he had done as a bowler by having a wild slog at his first ball when he should have looked to give the strike to Powar.

The two matches have shown that there is very little that separates the teams and as the nervousness and tension of the first matches eases away, the games will continue to be closely contested as most India-Pakistan games are.

Both teams have problems with their bowling attack though the Pakistani bowlers are looking better and are more likely to play a role than the Indian bowlers.

The Indian fielding is getting better but the throwing-in is not only tardy but also not accurate. If they get it right then they will save themselves about 20 to 30 runs and as we saw in Rawalpindi, that can be the difference between winning and losing.

PMG

First Published: Mar 18, 2004 00:30 IST