India will look to wrap up series at Multan
After the morale-boosting victory in Lahore, a buoyant India would look to wrap up series against Pakistan when the teams clash in Multan.Updated: Feb 15, 2006 21:44 IST
After the morale-boosting victory in Lahore, a buoyant India would look to wrap up the five-match one-day series against Pakistan when the teams clash in the fourth tie which promises to be another high-scoring tussle here on Thursday.
The visitors have bounced back splendidly in the limited over contest after the Test debacle on the strength of their superb batting and have put the onus on Pakistan, who face a do-or-die situation in the day-night clash.
India displayed excellent temperament in chasing down the scores at Rawalpindi and Lahore in front of big crowds in full-throated support of the home team after the cliff-hanger at Peshawar went in Pakistan's favour.
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq must be at his wits end to stop India's winning momentum in his hometown after admitting that India had seized the edge for the rest of the series by winning in Lahore.
In all the three matches so far, the Indian batting has clicked well with Sachin Tendulkar playing the mentor's role to perfection and youngsters like Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni doing their bit.
The master batsman, under fire after his poor run of scores in the Test series, has answered his critics with some superb batting display that has cushioned the middle order and allowed youngsters to bat with freedom.
In the third match two days ago at Lahore, Tendulkar saw off the most difficult phase of the game with diligence, scoring a measured 95 when conditions were difficult for batting in the first 15 overs.
All these three knocks were crucial, although the first one did not fetch victory as India lost the match by Duckworth/Lewis method despite making an imposing 328.
The ace batsman has been handicapped a bit by the absence of his regular opening partner Sehwag, who missed out on the third game and has been ruled out of the remaining matches.
Pakistan would be eager to see Tendulkar's back quickly to put some pressure on the Indian middle order, especially with Rahul Dravid not in the thick of runs in the ODIs after his splendid form in the first two Tests.
The other key batsman Pakistan would be weary of is Yuvraj, who has not only stroked the ball with superb timing but has brilliantly switched on and off his attacking instinct to suit the team's needs.
After the mauling from the Pakistani batsmen in the Test series, the Indian bowlers have risen to the occasion in the last two ODIs by restricting the home team to less than 300 in both the matches.
Irfan Pathan's return to form with the ball and his early strikes have helped India immensely to keep down the strong Pakistan batting line-up under check as a result of which the hosts have missed out on flying starts.
There is a little bit of concern because of the back strain suffered by Ajit Agarkar in the Lahore match, even though he is reported to be progressing well and the team is hopeful of his availability for tomorrow's match.
RP Singh has also performed creditably, but Zaheer Khan has been very disappointing and has gone for a lot of runs.
Zaheer, who was used as the Supersub in Lahore and came onto complete Agarkar's quota of ten overs but ended up conceding 36 from four overs, looks unlikely to play.
Harbhajan Singh's absence has limited India's spin option to Murali Kartik and Ramesh Powar and it remains to be seen how India go about their spin department.
However, Pakistan seem to be having even bigger problems in the bowling department with the non-availability of the injured Shoaib Akhtar and all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who has been ruled out of the last two games because of a rib injury.
Mohammed Sami has been drafted into the side in place of Akhtar and looks set to replace the unimpressive Rana Naved-ul-Hasan who was hammered mercilesssly by Dhoni in Lahore.
The key of Pakistan's bowling is seamer Mohammed Asif. The Indians have been prudent to see off the rookie bowler, who moves the ball prodigiously in helpful conditions and extracts disconcerting bounce.
Younis was sent down the order in the first three ODIs and was unable to protect the top order from a collapse like he did in so splendid a fashion in the Test rubber. In all likelihood he will bat one down here.
Pakistan's fielding was pathetic under pressure in the third ODI and the skipper has promised his players would work harder to improve in this vital department before the fourth match.
Pakistan would also be under pressure to complete the overs in time after being fined for falling short by one over in Lahore.
India have never played an ODI at this venue previously while Pakistan have won both the matches played here, albeit against cricket minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
India: Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Mohd Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singth, S Sreesanth, Ramesh Powar.
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul Haq (captain), Younis Khan, Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammed Sami, Mohammad Asif, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Arshad Khan.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI) and Asad Rauf (Pak). Third umpire: Zameer Haidar (Pak). Match referee: Chris Broad (Eng)
First Published: Feb 15, 2006 14:45 IST