Shahid Afridi turned all the players on the field into mere spectators as he scored the second fastest ODI century to power Pakistan to a five-wicket victory over India in the fifth One-Day International at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Friday.
Pakistan, chasing 250 for victory, raced to 252 for 5 in 42.1 overs to take a 3-2 lead in the six-match series.
The 25-year old clubbed nine sixes and nine fours as he gave Pakistan a thumping start -- 131 in 15 overs.
Despite his massive effort, some of the batsmen spent wickets unnecessarily towards the end as Pakistan went about completing the formalities.
The Indian bowlers were thumped around the park; Zaheer Khan was the only man ready to fight it out in the middle.
Earlier in the morning, Rahul Dravid scored a fighting 86 after Pakistan made full use of the early moisture in the wicket to reduce India to 59 for 4, with Naveed-ul-Hassan Rana rocking the top order.
Another big effort for India came from Mohammed Kaif, who scored 78 from 88 balls, and also added spunk to India's fielding.
Dravid came out for the toss as captain of India for the 11th time, in the landmark 100th game between India and Pakistan. As soon as the coin landed, Ravi Shastri rushed to Inzamam-ul Haq and congratulated him for winning the toss.
Half way into the conversation, when the Pakistan captain had decided to bat and given the reasons for his decision, match referee Chris Broad stepped in to say that it was Dravid who had won the toss.
Dravid also elected to bat.
India made three changes to the side, bringing in Dinesh Mongia for Sourav Ganguly and opting for their spin twins -- Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble in place of Ashish Nehra and Murali Karthik.
For Pakistan, Arshad Khan and Rao Iftikhar Anjum came in place of Danish Kaneria and Mohammad Sami.
The Green Park wicket had low bounce but afforded some lateral movement in the first few overs.
Naveed-ul-Hasan Rana's first over cost Pakistan nine runs, as Virender Sehwag tried to push the opposition on the back foot straightaway. Sehwag hit a four through cover to start with and also earned four leg byes off the last ball.
But the balding bowler stuck to his guns and bowled with an upright seam, kept the ball in the corridor of uncertainty and had it swing either way.
Sachin Tendulkar, fresh from his 38th ODI century in the previous game, didn't trust the pitch. The 31-year-old was tentative to begin with and fell to Rana in the third over of the innings for one.
Rana drew the batsman forward with a ball that pitched on good length, but the slight seam movement had Tendulkar nick it down to the wicketkeeper. Kamran Akmal stayed low and held on to the catch. (10-1)
Only one run had been added to the Indian total when Sehwag was bowled by Rana. The batsman tried to whip the ball down mid-wicket. Rana kept the ball just short of length and got it to nip back and uproot Sehwag's off-stump.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni then took most of the strike. The Indian wicketkeeper got a mighty edge run down to the third man boundary off Rao but that was about it. Dhoni was unable to free his arms, as the ball did not quite come on to the bat and was out trying to force another drive.
Rana again got the ball to swing in and Dhoni, pushing at it, edged the ball to second slip. The ball was dying on its way to Younis Khan, but the Pakistan vice-captain latched on to it. (26-3)
The Pakistan fast bowler scythed through the Indian top order, and gave away only 18 runs in his first seven overs.
Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh then got the innings going for a while. It is not very often that the left-hander comes in so early in the innings, but he was at ease facing the hard ball.
In his brief stay at the wicket, Yuvraj showed the straight face of the bat and unraveled some exquisite drives. On a couple of occasions, he only seemed to touch the ball, but the timing on the straight drive shot it down the fence.
The Indian batsmen, for the first time on the series, had struggled so much to get a 50 on board. They went past the mark in the 14th over, but were to lose their next wicket shortly.
Abdul Razzaq, who replaced Rana, was right on the mark. He brought about Yuvraj's downfall just when the left-hander threatened to run away with the game.
Yuvraj had scored 18 from 33 balls, with the help of four boundaries, when he chopped a Razzaq delivery on the stumps. The ball straightened after pitching and stayed low. Yuvraj, trying to reach it, ended up playing it on the middle stump. (59-4)
Mohammed Kaif, coming at the fall of the wicket to massive applause from his home crowd, helped Dravid to rebuild the innings. The Indian captain countered the Pakistan fast bowlers with sound footwork and with Kaif was busy taking quick ones and twos and the occasional boundary.
Like India had done in the previous match in Ahmedabad, Pakistan also let the advantage slip in the middle overs. The spinners who took over from the faster men were benign and looked more to contain rather than crash another blow in India's shaky effort.
With the field spread out, the Indians helped themselves to easy runs.
From 59 in almost 17 overs, India had progressed to 151 in 37 overs without losing another wicket.
Kaif brought up his fifty, from 83 balls, with a typically restless single. With aggressive play, he had taken the pressure off Dravid and given momentum to the Indian innings.
Meanwhile, Dravid, with his newfound love for cheeky shots in the one-dayers, raced from 43 to his half century with two identical sweep shots to Afridi. He took a big stride forward, picked the ball from around off stump and turned it around to the fine-leg boundary for bring up his 59th ODI half century.
Once in the last ten overs, the Indian batsmen tried to accelerate. They had played themselves in a position of strength with a 135-run partnership from 160 balls. Kaif and Dravid broke their own record for India's highest fifth-wicket partnership against Pakistan, which they had made in the first ODI in Karachi last year.
Kaif, who escaped a mis-hit on 65 when the ball fell in no man's land, was out trying to pull Razzaq after a crucial knock of 78. The local boy had used the shot effectively, scoring 45 runs in the arc from fine leg to mid-on, throughout the innings but the ball came off the inside of the bat and straight down short mid-wicket's throat. (194-5).
It wasn't the best time for Dinesh Mongia to make a comeback into the Indian side. But the Punjab captain, after a tentative start, launched into the Pakistani attack. He took Arshad Khan for two sixes off consecutive balls to scoot India's scoring.
He first picked up Khan over mid-wicket and followed it up with a better hit over long-on. Mongia stepped out and lifted the ball effortlessly over the boundary.
Taking cue from his partner, Dravid also got adventurous. Rao, who had just one over left, came in the penultimate over and the Indian captain promptly cut him over point for four. With the first ball of the over dispatched to the rope, India took it easy for the rest of the over.
Dravid, trying to improvise on the last ball, tried to pick the ball on off and middle. He took it on the full and turned it round the corner straight to Arshad Khan at short fine leg, but the ball popped out of the fielder's hand and raced to the boundary.
But the Karnataka batsman finally ran out of fuel in the last over. He played the ball down to long-off and was short of his crease while going for a run. The bowler, Rana, fumbled the chance. The batsmen tried to dash for another single but Dravid, out of exhaustion, didn't push enough or drag his bat in the crease and was run out. (248-6)
Dravid, again the mainstay of India's batting, scored a valiant 86 from 116 balls, with the help of eight boundaries. His adaptability was reflected in the fact that he had only eight runs in the traditional 'V'. With the ball coming slower onto the bat, he grafted the ball squarer and also scored 41 runs behind the wickets.
After being 59 for 4, the hosts finished on 249 for six, with Mongia scoring a cameo knock of 33 from 28 balls. In scoring 77 runs in the last ten overs, India turned tables on Pakistan and posted a competitive total.
Rana ended his spell with three wickets for 35 runs in ten overs to emerge Pakistan's most successful bowler in the game.
Dravid respects sweat, and toiled it out for more than 40 overs for his 86.
It was almost unfair then as Afridi completed the demolition even before sweat could break out. He respects nothing and no one. Not his reputation, nor the bowlers.
As soon as he found himself in the heat of the contest, he went bonkers. The first ball he faced from Balaji was picked from middle stump to the mid-wicket fence. Two leg byes, four, six, four went the next four balls.
Zaheer Khan followed that with a maiden over to Salman Butt.
Dravid then came up with a shocker. He introduced Kumble in the fifth over of the innings in an attempt to down shutters on Afridi's assault.
Hardly. Kumble was bowling for the first time in the series. He bowled a loosener, a full toss on Afridi's middle-stump. The right-hander doesn't wait for an invitation and hoisted the ball over mid-wicket. The next ball was again pulled into the stands.
Kumble had to do something different; he came from round the stumps. A dot and a wide; Afridi then made room for himself by shifting down the leg and hit the ball inside-out for four. The next ball was again sent into orbit and the last ball slapped through cover point.
Over number five: 23 runs again for Pakistan; 22 runs to Afridi.
Dravid brought back Balaji and then Dinesh Mongia; Zaheer also finally faced the fury. Afridi dominated the attack till everyone lost a track of the number of boundaries that were being scored. With his sixth six, off Zaheer, of the innings he took his career tally to 200 sixes.
Where India were tottering at 38 for 3, Pakistan were 93 for no loss after 10 overs.
Afridi brought up his fifty in 20 balls. The bashing numbed the Indians.
Zaheer was the only Indian bowler who stood up to the Pakistani colossus. Though he was slogged for 30 in 23 balls, it was nothing compared to the fate the rest of the bowlers suffered. The left-arm seamer was enjoying the challenge thrown at him. He dug in the ball short, followed it up with a yorker, came round the wicket did everything he could. On the occasions he succeeded, he gave a wry smile and went back to his run-up.
The Indians desperately gasped for some space, but Afridi had already snatched the game from them. He brought up his century on the first ball of the 15th over with a lofted off-drive off Harbhajan Singh. He reached the landmark off 45 balls, equalling Brian Lara's effort, for the second fastest century.
Afridi holds the record for the fastest century, off 37 balls in ODIs.
Harbhajan, who missed the fourth ODI due to a side strain, though dampened the celebrations in the Pakistan dressing room, when he had Afridi bowled with the next ball. Trying to knock down the ball off the front foot, Afridi let an inside edge sneak to the stumps. Harbhajan had kept the ball fuller, and it turned in slightly after pitching on the off stump to lick the edge.
In Pakistan's total of 131, Afridi's contribution was 102. And his liking for the flick shot was evident as he scored 58 runs, including eight sixes and two fours, in the arc between square leg and mid-on.
With Afridi out of the way, India saw a tiny ray of hope. The expectations were raised as they were able to scalp Butt for 21 in the next over.
Kumble pitched the ball on middle, almost yorker length, as Butt tried to sweep. He was hit on the pads in front of the stumps and Pakistan were now 135 for two.
But with the rocket already launched into orbit, the rest of the batsmen only had to keep it floating.
In the 19th over, India wasted a chance when Harbhajan walked down on the stumps at the bowlers end even before he received the throw from Zaheer to give Youhana, who was still to open his account, a life.
Shoaib Malik and Youhana then kept the Indian bowlers at bay. Though Harbhajan and Kumble bowled to attacking fields, the Pakistan batsmen carved out a useful partnership of 58 runs.
Youhana was out after scoring a patient 24. The 27-year old miscued a Kumble delivery over cover. With the ball dipping away from him, Kaif ran behind, dived full length and held on to the catch. (193-3)
Inzamam then came out, nonchalant, and drove through mid-off for four to set his scoreboard rolling. After the match-winning knock of 60 in the Ahmedabad ODI, this was a cakewalk for the Pakistan captain.
All Malik had to do was hang on with his skipper, but a rush of adrenaline again did him in. The Pakistan all-rounder tried to hoick Tendulkar over mid-off, but couldn't get enough distance on his shot. The ball ballooned in the air and into Zaheer's waiting hands on the edge of the circle. (216-4)
Tendulkar flighted the ball a lot more than his fellow-spinners but Younis Khan was quick to read him. The Pakistan vice-captain took him to task, spanking him for three fours trying to hurry his team's victory lap.
By the 40th over, Pakistan had well and truly wrapped up the game. The needed only five more runs in the next ten overs.
Just when it looked like Younis would take them home in a canter, he was bowled for 24. Sehwag begged for an lbw decision against the batsman till umpire Rudi Koertzen broke into a smile. Two balls later he had Younis bowled, missing the line completely. The off-spinner again lamely asked the question to the umpire.
Pakistan needed only two runs to win, and Inzamam got them without much fuss. He guided the ball for four through cover to give Pakistan a 3-2 lead in the six-match series.
Inzamam ended up with an unbeaten 24 off 33 balls.
The final match of the series will be played at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday, April 17.