India wrapped up the ongoing 5-match series at Gwalior itself with a clinical performance that saw them win by a comfortable margin of 6 wickets. The hosts have taken an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series following yet another brilliant score in the ‘nervous nineties’ from the little master Sachin Tendulkar. For India, it was a One Day Series win over the arch rivals at home after 24 long years! It was also the first series win under the belt for the young MS Dhoni as India’s new ODI Captain!
Electing to bat first at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in the day night match, Pakistan had to put up atleast 300 as the dew was expected to make havoc for the bowlers in the evening. But Pakistan could muster just 255 for 6 on the board leaving a lot of work on their bowling department that clearly lacked a quality spinner to sustain the pressure in the middle overs. The visitors had lost a wicket in the very second ball of the match when Salman Butt was caught in the crease playing the wrong line to RP Singh. The wicket didn’t quite look good with the ball hardly carrying to the keeper and the edges always falling short of the fielders. The Indians would have got the big fish Younus Khan very early but for a sharp inside edge that was dropped by the Indian Captain off Irfan Pathan’s bowling. Younus took advantage of that slip to put up a steady partnership with his Captain who had decided to open the batting. The second wicket partnership between Malik and Younus was cautious and when it came to breaking the shackles, the former missed a straight delivery from Zaheer to get his stumps disturbed. Malik, who made 31 from 55 became the 200th scalp for Zaheer in his ODI career!
Pak got another partnership going this time through Younus and Yousuf which laid the platform. It was in the 30th over that Yuvraj put halt to the double trouble by catching a leading edge that he induced from Younus Khan (68 from 89 with 5 fours and a six). A few overs late, Shahid Afridi, who was sent into accelerate was given lbw after missing to connect a risky paddle sweep off Sourav. That was finally the 100th ODI wicket for Dada who had to wait for a long time to get this one and to join the esteemed club of players who had got 10k runs and 100 wickets! Pak at this stage were at a precarious 134 for 4 in the 33rd over and they were rescued by a sensible partnership between Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq that drove them into the slog overs. Misbah played a good innings of 40 from 39 with 2 fours and a six before getting cleaned up by Irfan Pathan in the 48th over. Yousuf ended the innings taking Pakistan to 255 for 6 with a six in the final over but got himself stranded at an unlucky 99. His innings was beautifully paced, there were lot of good hits coming from him towards the end which hardly had any physical effort. For the Indians, Zaheer Khan stood out with figures of 2 for 40 in his 10. The overall fielding from the Indians was up to the mark.
Shoaib Akhtar and co. had to strike inroads if their side had to defend the total of 255. And Shoaib did just that drawing Ganguly in a false drive in the 3rd over. Another quick wicket wasn’t coming his way despite bowling so well along with Sohail Tanvir. It was Tendulkar and Gambhir easing India through but the latter threw his wicket away in the 9th over playing a casual pull shot in the hands of the square leg fielder in the 30 yards circle. Gambhir made just 3 with most of the strike being controlled by Tendulkar who decided to put the pressure back on the bowlers with his strokeplay. Tendulkar was in supreme form as he found the gaps on a regular basis, everything he touched was turning into gold. And an out of form Sehwag walked in at the right time and he was so lucky to bat with an inform Tendulkar who was controlling the chase perfectly. All the pressure was on the bowlers which allowed Sehwag to regain his touch. Just when he was sure to reach a half century, he ran himself out through a non existent single towards Malik at mid off. Sehwag made 43 from 49 with 4 fours and a six taking India to 155 for 3 in the 28th.
Pakistan got a double breakthrough soon with Tendulkar yet again falling in the nervous nineties. This time too he fell to Umar Gul who had foxed him by holding the ball cross seam and getting it to keep low and skid through. Tendulkar got a fatal inside edge that cruelly robbed him his century by three runs! That was the sixth time in this year that Sachin missed out in the 90s. His runs came in just 102 balls with as many as 16 lovely boundaries. At 159 for 4, some sort of pressure was back on the hosts but the cool pair of Yuvraj and MS Dhoni were too professional to allow any fightback from Pakistan. The problem that the fielding side was obviously the dew which made the outfield wet. And the Indian pair quite cleverly played lot of ground shots which denied the opportunity to either get the ball to reverse swing or to grip for the spinners. The match was finished by the same pair with 21 balls to spare. Yuvraj finished on 53 (from 65 balls with 4 fours and a six) while MS Dhoni who had hit the winning boundary got 45 (from 45 with 3 fours and a six). The Man of the Match award went to Sachin Tendulkar for taking the game away from Pakistan.