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Ramiz Raja

Laxman, Pathan foiled Pakistan

March 26, 2004

As an administrator, I think this series was a resounding success, especially since we had very little time to get our act together. However, a better result on the field would have been the best possible result for us, since the crowds, which had behaved so well, deserved to see a home win. However, cricket does not take such considerations into account and eventually the better team won.

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The fourth game was what turned the tide in favour of India. The determination and resilience they showed by coming back from 160-odd for 5 to win the game put the home team under pressure.

In the final game, Inzamam had to put India in because the reverse strategy did not get them a win. The bowlers thought that drier conditions in the afternoon would suit them. Unfortunately, VVS Laxman foiled Pakistan's plans by playing effortlessly. He is not a player who can force the pace at the end of the innings but he is ideally suited for the consolidation period between the 20th and 35th over. He picks the gaps and plays along the ground and propels the innings.

Since our more accomplished bowling attack had failed to defend 293, I thought we had a good chance of overhauling the target. However, Irfan Pathan bowled a beautiful spell to put the hosts virtually out of the competition. Pathan may not possess pace, but he has a wonderful in-dipper and is pretty accurate and disciplined for a young bowler.

The Pakistan batsmen perished trying to force the pace too early, though I thought Yusuf Youhana was a little unlucky to be adjudged leg before wicket. After Inzamam's exit it was always going to be an Indian win.

Right through the series it was the Indians who got their basics right in both departments of the game. The Pakistani bowlers, unfortunately, were too wayward and undisciplined to make an impact. Hopefully, they will improve before the Test series.

It was 'advantage India' for the ODIs and 'advantage Pakistan' for the Tests according to the experts when the tour began. However, this win would have filled the Indians with confidence. They will be happy with reinforcements in the form of Kumble and Agarkar and this will be a huge relief for Ganguly. The only worry is Ganguly's fitness. When I spoke to him yesterday, he said he was on painkillers and could not assess the extent of his injury. I'm sure he will be under observation for the next couple of days.

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