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Pakistan win third Test, draw series

By Ashish Magotra
Last updated on: March 28, 2005 17:52 IST
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Shahid Afridi claimed three wickets for 13 runs as Pakistan beat India by 168 runs on the final day in the third Test at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Monday.

The victory enabled the visitors to draw the three-match series 1-1.

India's defensive approach backfired as Pakistan's spinners, led by Danish Kaneria, held sway after the exit of Virender Sehwag to fashion a memorable victory.

Chasing a daunting target of 383 for a victory, the Indians were bundled out for 214 with just six overs left in the day.

Morning session:

Just before the last session of play in the first ever tied Test, Don Bradman, then chief of Australia's selectors, had gone up to skipper Richie Benaud and asked him, "So Richie, what are you planning to do?"

At that point, Australian could have opted for a conservative approach and the match could have petered out to a draw. But Benaud replied, "For a win, of course!"

Bradman smiled back and said, "That's exactly the answer I was hoping to get."

At the start of day 5 in the ongoing Test, that's exactly what India needed to do. Go for a win and if things did get tough then the likes of Rahul Dravid could shut shop and play for a draw.

The initial intent had to be there. The pitch was still good for batting, and that was evident from the 356 runs that were scored on day 4. There would be the odd ball that would surprise the batsmen but on a day 5 pitch that is expected.

India had 90 overs to score 358 runs. But keeping in mind that the highest ever-successful chase in the fourth innings in India is 276-5, by the West Indies at Delhi, during the 1987-88 series, it wasn't going to be easy.

Gambhir, still on his overnight score of 19, survived a clear caught behind off Abdul Razzaq in the second over of the morning when umpire Simon Taufel refused to give him out.

In the next over from Mohammad Sami, the ball went past Sehwag's outside edge without touching the bat. The Pakistan fielders went up in unison but were turned down once again. A very livid Inzamam-ul Haq couldn't believe the decision. Pakistan wanted Sehwag's wicket at all costs.

The Indian opener gave his answer in the next over, with three consecutive boundaries -- one edged through gully, another through the covers and the last one driven straight down the ground. Inzamam was still seething because he thought that Pakistan had been undone by some bad decisions.

India reached 50 in the 13th over and looked to have weathered the initial storm. The main push would now come when Inzamam would bring on the spinners.

By the end of the 15th over, Inzamam had done away with the third slip. He started the day with a very aggressive field but it had taken just a few boundaries from Sehwag to alter the Pakistan skipper's mindset. So, now, it was two slips and two gullies.

In the 20th over, leg-spinner Danish Kaneria was finally introduced into the attack and it was almost immediately evident that this was going to be a battle to savour. The third ball of the over was dispatched for four, straight over the bowlers head. The leg-spinner came back the next ball with one that just beat the edge of Sehwag's bat.

After 20 overs, India were 70 for no loss.

It was all going according to plan when disaster struck in the worst possible manner. Gambhir pushed one straight to mid-on and set off for a quick single before suddenly realizing that the ball had gone straight to the fielder, Razzaq. Sehwag was stranded in the middle, the bowler was nowhere near the stumps and the only way the right-hander was going to be run out was with a direct hit.

With just one stump to aim at, Razzaq hit the bull's eye and Sehwag was heading back to the pavilion, run-out for the first time in Tests, after scoring 38 off 53 balls. (87 for 1)

Sehwag, at this point, had started to look increasingly assured and one got the feeling that he was all set for a big knock. In such a situation, one feels that, maybe, Gambhir should have sacrificed his wicket for the team's cause.

Next man in was Dravid. One could feel the lift Pakistan received from the fall of the wicket.

The Indian batsmen went into their shell. Dravid took 15 balls to get off the mark and Gambhir, who had been been playing shots, just shut shop. It was silly cricket. In six overs after Sehwag's wicket only eight runs were scored.

Why the compete change in attitude? It was almost as if the fall of Sehwag's wicket meant that the India would now play for a draw. In the 11 overs after the wicket, only 15 runs were scored.

It was still the same Pakistani bowlers; it was the same pitch. Except for the fall of Sehwag's wicket one couldn't help but wonder what had changed.

At lunch, India were 102 for 1, still needing 281 runs for victory.  Gambhir was unbeaten on 52 off 121 balls while Dravid was on 6 off 38.

Post-Lunch session

After lunch, Pakistan thrust their best bowlers, Kaneria and Sami, into the attack straightaway. It was the correct strategy and it yielded results almost instantly.

The deserving Sami got a wicket. The fast bowler, bowling with amazing stamina and pace, looks like getting a wicket whenever he bowls. The ball had been reverse swinging since the 20th over but it was predictable and the batsmen could adjust.

But the ball that got Gambhir (52) swung late and thudded into the his pads as he tried to play across the line. (108 for 2)

India's approach was shocking, to say the least. At this point, there were still a minimum of 61 overs left in the match and the only way to get through these overs was to play regular cricket. And by regular cricket one means playing each ball on its merit. You just can't shut shop and play every ball in the same manner.

Sachin Tendulkar came in next, and on 5 became the highest run-getter for India in Tests. He went past Sunil Gavaskar's record of 10,122 runs.

After 42 overs, Arshad Khan got his first bowl of the innings. And he needed just three balls to get the breakthrough for his side.

The ball pitched outside the off stump and turned. Dravid (16 off 64 balls) pushed forward to defend; the ball clipped the pad, then the bat and popped up on the off side, where Younis Khan, stationed at silly point dived full length to his right to take a tough catch. (118 for 3)

Then came the inexplicable shut down. For 52 deliveries -- many of them half volleys -- not a single run was scored and VVS Laxman was back in the pavilion. The Indian team, with all its experience, was playing like a club side; nay; even with a club side better sense would have prevailed.

With the batsmen intent on defence, Inzamam and his bowlers grew in confidence. As many as six fielders crowded around the bat and the bowlers could try everything safe in the knowledge that they had enough runs to play with.

Afridi trapped Laxman, who looked ill at ease with his team's chosen game plan, plumb in front of his stumps. (126 for 4)

Sourav Ganguly walked to the wicket with a nervous fidget. And the Pakistanis crowded around him like vultures. Anyone watching the game could have said that the Indian skipper was not going to last long.

One almost felt pity for Ganguly. For long critics have said that this Indian team has consistently won despite him, and not because of him. This was his opportunity to prove all wrong. Instead, he was clean bowled by Afridi in an almost comical manner.

Afridi tossed it up. The ball pitched wide outside the off-stump and turned in. Ganguly (2 off 14 balls) tried to drive it away on the front-foot, missed the target by miles and was clean bowled.

Now Ganguly refused to move; he could not believe that he was clean bowled. Umpire Taufel had to tell him twice that he was indeed bowled. (135 for 5)

The Indian skipper's average for the Test series dipped to 9.60.

Dinesh Karthik and Tendulkar somehow survived the rest of the overs to tea. At the break, India were 140 for 5, with Tendulkar on 11 off 78 balls and Karthik on 1 off 25 balls.

Post-Tea session

Maidens were the norm after the tea break. Both Karthik and Tendulkar were content to defend. It was a flawed strategy because it allowed Inzamam to put as many as seven fielders around the bat. If you have so many fielders around the bat, the simple strategy would be to swing the bat as hard as possible.

That will do two things: get you runs or de-capacitate one of the close-in fielders.

Karthik (9 off 44) was cleaned up by a sharp in-swinging yorker from Sami. (164 for 6)

Tendulkar departed after scoring just 16 from 98 deliveres in the very next over without any addition to the total. It was a dismissal that was brought about mainly because the batsman had decided not to play any strokes.

Afridi bowled a straight delivery but Tendulkar played for the turn, the edge popped off the pad straight to Asim Kamal at short leg. (164 for 7)

With just the bowlers left to come, the match was heading for a quick finish. Pakistan were rampant.

Next man to come and go was Irfan Pathan. The 19-year-old had stuck it out for 29 balls without scoring a run. He pushed forward, the ball bounced off his shoe straight to Yousuf Youhana off Arshad Khan. (189 for 8)

With one hour to go, India were in dire straits at 193 for 8.

Harbhajan (8) fought bravely but perished playing another defensive stroke. Each and every Indian wicket that fell was due to the batsman playing a defensive shot. Not one of them chose aggression as the better option.

Younis Khan, at silly point, took a brilliant catch to give Kaneria his first wicket of the innings and end Bajji's brave resistance.(210 for 9)

Balaji walked in next and slugged it out for a few overs. With just six overs remaining in the day, the right-hander finally succumbed.

Balaji (0) was hit on the pad, offering no stroke; the dreaded finger went up, and Pakistan had leveled the three-Test series 1-1.

Anil Kumble was not out on 37 off 53 balls.

To put Kumble's knock in perspective, by contrast the Indian middle-order (Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly) had collectively scored only 39 runs in 205 balls.

A brilliant comeback from Pakistan; to claim nine Indian wickets in two sessions on a pitch that was still good for stroke play is an amazing achievement.

Afridi bagged the prized wickets of Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. Younis, who was later adjudged man of the match, was as brilliant in the field as he was with the bat.

Mohammad Sami (2-84), Danish Kaneria (2-46) and Arshad Khan (2-21), in his comeback match after four years, also played a leading role in the thrilling victory.

Sehwag, who scored 544 runs, including two centuries in the three Tests, at an average of 90.66, was adjudged man of the series.

But, the dashing opener summed up his disappointment in the post-match presentation, saying: "Awards don't matter; only victories do."

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Ashish Magotra

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