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India draw first blood over a tentative Pakistan

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India have drawn first blood in the 5-ODI Series Indian Oil Cup with an easy 5-wicket win at Guwahati against a tentative Pakistani side. An all round display from Dhoni’s side outplayed their counterparts in all the three departments of the game. India cruised through a comfortable win chasing a modest target of 240 at the Nehru Stadium after a century stand between the Captain and Yuvraj Singh.

Batting first after winning the toss, Pak got themselves to a solid start with Salman Butt stroking his way along but the other opener Kamran Akmal struggled to get going and in the 11th over paid the penalty for a wrong shot selection. Pakistan still got themselves to 44 on the board but then Younis Khan couldn’t keep the scoreboard ticking and the singles weren’t taken regularly along with Salman Butt, who was relying more on the boundaries. In the 18th over, Salman Butt ran himself out after reaching his fifty. He made 50 from 57 with the help of 8 fours. India could have easily got their third wicket in the form of Mohammad Yousuf as he lost his patience and miscued a big shot off Murali Kartik. But Yousuf was very lucky with Sourav Ganguly not able to come under a skier at covers. After that it was a sensible partnership with Younis Khan but then the Indian bowlers including the spinners kept it very tight.

In the 30th over, Pakistan could hardly get past three figures and in an attempt to accelerate things, an out of rhythm Younis Khan holed out to long on off Harbhajan Singh. Afridi was promoted up the order to drastically improve the run rate but the two spinners – Harbhajan and Kartik were able to dominate him with the sharp turn they could extract. Afridi could get going though after a couple of lucky escapes but he got out just before the slog over began. He was outsmarted by Tendulkar, who saw him coming down the track to bowl it wider and out of the batsman’s reach to get him stumped out. Afridi made 31 from 32 with a four and a six to take his side to 163 for 4. Tendulkar then added another important scalp that of Shoaib Malik, who swept a full toss straight into the hands of Gambhir in the deep to leave Pak at 165 for 5 in the 41st over. Pakistan could then get a crucial partnership going between Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq that lifted them to 239 for 7. Yousuf blossomed towards the end to finish at 83 not out from 88 balls with 7 fours. Misbah-ul-Haq made 27 from 26.

The Indian spinners were simply outstanding. Murali Kartik in particular looked very dangerous although he remained wicketless, but he conceded just 36 runs in his quota. Harbhajan Singh too had similar figures, giving away just 29 runs although he did get the wicket of Younis Khan.

In their chase, India lost the wicket of Tendulkar (4) after he made the fatal mistake of playing across the line to Shoaib Akhtar. That wicket didn’t deter the confidence of Ganguly and Gambhir with both batsmen playing their shots. Gambhir showed a bit of overconfidence playing away from his body on a couple of occasions to get the nick behind off Shoaib. However, the Pakistani fielding was looking substandard as they put down the chances that came their way and also numerous misfieldings. Pakistan could find a breakthrough though, in the 17th over through a careless attempt from Sourav Ganguly in getting back to the crease which cost his wicket. Ganguly was looking good until then with his 39 from 55 which had 6 fours and a six.

In the 21st over, the visitors were brought back into the game by Afridi who bowled Gambhir (44 from 51 with 7 fours) round his legs to have India at a vulnerable 113 for 3. Pak’s hopes of winning the match from this stage were spoilt by a beautiful partnership between MS Dhoni (63 from 77 with 8 fours) and Yuvraj Singh (58 from 74 with 6 fours and a six) which sealed the match in India’s favour. Both batsmen just eased their side through with a 105-run stand that got India almost to the distance. Both were dismissed though leaving the honours of getting the winning runs to young Robin Uthappa (11 from 11 not out with 2 fours). India finished the match with three overs to spare. MS Dhoni was the Man of the Match for the day for guiding his side through.

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