Shaun Pollock created sensation at the beautiful Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore by almost single handedly carrying the Africans to a never thought so victory. The all rounder who was playing as a pure batsman in this series went down fighting with a maiden hundred. The Mahela Jayawardene Asian team having got a nice cushion of putting up a tall score of 317 just managed to win the first ODI by 34 runs.
Coming in at no.7 and the scoreboard reading a miserable 31 for 5, Pollock put up a couple of promising stands with one Zimbabwean batsman and then a Kenyan batsman to put Africa back on the map. Elton Chigumbura was the Zimbabwean and Thomas Odoyo was the Kenyan who did their bit in supporting their senior player. While Chigumbura put on 67 runs with Pollock, Odoyo’s partnership was even better as he featured in a 103-run stand for the 9th wicket. For Pollock, it was only his first ever century in One Dayers having waited for 189 innings in the last 12 years. It was a record of the most innings without a century going past the previous record that was in Steve Waugh’s name.
The Africans were chasing 318 which was quite possible with the ball nicely coming onto the bat and the fact that the outfield was deadly quick. The chase needed the much fancied AB de Villiers, Kemp and Boucher to fire. But that just didn’t happen because of some superb seam bowling from Mohammad Asif and Zaheer Khan. AB de Villiers having struck a boundary off the first ball of the innings was clean bowled in the next one shouldering arms to an incoming delivery from Asif. Dippenaar, the no.3 bat was cleaned up by a magical Zaheer Khan delivery while Bosman, the opener was snapped up in the slips off the same bowler. Asif complemented with two more wickets that of Tikolo who was hit wicket and Kemp, the Skipper. A partnership of sorts took off between the ever reliable Boucher and Pollock but was spoilt by Sanath Jayasuriya as he got rid of Boucher who made 25.
When Jayasuriya got Albie Morkel, the score read a sorry 87 for 7 with an early finish to the match expected with just 20 overs bowled. But the match went on till the end with the fall of the last wicket that of Pollock coming in the 48th over. Mahela Jayawardene almost paid for his mistake of not enforcing the third powerplay when the Africans were in tatters as he had decided to give a break for his medium pacers. He took them at a stage when Pollock was easing past his hundred. Pollock had got his second fifty in just 30 balls. His innings had some unbelievable timing and the intelligence that ensured that he didn’t ride much on luck but on pure placements. Pollock with Thomas Odoyo created lot of pressure on Jayawardene and his bowlers. Harbhajan Singh and Mashrafe Mortaza were the ones to suffer as they got plenty of stick from the batsmen. As many as 48 runs were taken in the 3rd powerplay. Towards the end, Pollock didn’t have much strength left as cramps got better of him and also that he just didn’t have any batsmen left with. The spectators had got their money worth with Pollock dishing out a brilliant 130 from 110 balls with 19 fours and a six. The other two contributors were Elton Chigumbura with 40 (from 37 balls with 5 fours and a six) and Thomas Odoyo with 39 from 35 with 4 fours and a six. Asif and Jayasuriya picked up three wickets each.
In the afternoon, Mahela Jayawardene had won the toss and decided to bat first. After a wayward start, Morne Morkel came up with the big wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya. A wonderful platform was laid by Sehwag and Ganguly as they put on 68 for the second wicket in good time. Both batsmen fell though, playing onto their stumps failing to convert their starts. Sehwag got 45 from 42 with 7 fours and a six while Ganguly got 32 from 29 with 7 fours. Three of them had come in the first three balls he had faced against Morkel and in his innings! The good efforts of the Indian pair were carried on by Jayawardene and Yousuf with both of them getting half centuries. Jayawardene made 65 from 62 with 7 fours and a six and Yousuf got 66 from 74 with 5 fours. The Asians were looking good to get 350 but a late fightback from the African bowlers saw them restricted at 317 for 9. Only 52 runs came in the last 10 overs at the loss of five wickets. The Asians had lost their way once they lost Yuvraj Singh who was looking to take charge with a nice 31. Harbhajan Singh with his 20 had got the Asians past the 300 towards the end. The African bowling lacked the teeth, they hardly had any experienced bowler in their line up!
Shaun Pollock for his great knock got the Man of the Match award and with his innings has certainly made the Afro-Asia Cup an interesting one to watch. The two teams will be meeting in back to back matches at Chennai on the 9th and 10th.