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India peaking at the right time

They outfoxed, out-thought and eventually outclassed Pakistan at Rawalpindi, writes Moin Khan.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2006 18:45 IST

It was a clinical performance by India as they levelled the five-match series 1-1 at Rawalpindi— a venue where they won their maiden Test series over Pakistan a couple of years ago.

They outfoxed, out-thought, outsmarted and eventually outclassed Pakistan in all the departments of the game to indicate that they were peaking probably at the right time in this one-day series— something that should be a concern for Pakistan.

Pakistan lacked the firepower in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and their problems were further compounded by four silly run-outs, but it was neither India's problem nor concern as they had a job to accomplish which they did professionally, comprehensively and in style.

Securing the first win of the tour must have contributed hugely to India's morale and beating Pakistan after five straight one-day defeats, should certainly have restored their confidence. But this form of cricket is very cruel. The margin of error is minimum and consequently you can easily transform into villains from heroes in matter of hours. So, it is better to stick to the basics of the game, keep injecting your best efforts and put the celebration party on hold.

Dravid also proved me right when he bowled Irfan Pathan in two spells who later walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award.

The best thing that happened to India was a century opening stand between Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. No matter how small or big total you are chasing, you need a solid start and that's exactly what the two provided. I was amazed to hear that Sehwag has not scored a century in the last 60 one-dayers in which he has averaged something like 29.

Sehwag is a type of player against whom you cannot set a proper field. He relies so heavily on his eye that he stands tall and punches even the good balls to boundaries without much footwork. He looked in discomfort with his left shoulder and I hope it is not serious because after this series, India have to face England and Sehwag will certainly be one of the key players.

The Sehwag-Tendulkar pair also provided Rahul Dravid the luxury to revert to a more conventional batting order and the end result was a seven-wicket victory.

I don't think Inzamam-ul-Haq did anything wrong while electing to batexcept that he was deceived by the look of the pitch. The decision was based on the fact that the team batting first here in the last two matches had won. Moreover, Pakistan had also defeated India two years ago while batting first.

Defeat sometimes helps you to get back on track, specially after you are enjoying such a successful run of form like Pakistan since the Bangalore Test. To me it was a timely wake-up call for Pakistan and also a stern warning that if they don't lift their standards, they are headed for big trouble.

Even in defeat, the plus was the batting of Shoaib Malik who reached 90s for the second successive time and Younis Khan, who even batting at No 6, chipped in with 81 while adding 102 for the fifth wicket with Malik. To me, the turning point of the match was when Shoaib Malik was run-out at the score of 170. Had he batted a few more overs, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi could have exploited the situation better.

Pakistan don't need to push the panic button after one defeat but yes, they must address the core issues like improving the fielding standards, bowling to a tight line and length, and reducing the tendency of throwing away wickets cheaply.

As regards Lahore one-dayer, it will be the first game that will finish under lights. The outfield will be fast and the wicket would once again be something like the one we had for the first Test in which little under 1,100 runs were scored at the cost of eight wickets.

However, after analysing the strengths of the two teams, I think the captain winning the toss would prefer to chase the target.

First Published: Feb 12, 2006 15:57 IST