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Pollock in vain battle against Asia

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 06, 2007 22:57 IST
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Shaun Pollock slammed a maiden hundred in one-day internationals but could not prevent Africa from going down to Asia by 34 runs in the opening ODI of the Afro-Asia Cup three-match series at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old veteran, playing the three-match series as a batsman, made it a memorable 285th individual tie, scoring a superb 130 off 110 balls, inclusive of 19 fours and a six, before getting out as the last man.

Africa, replying to Asia's imposing total of 317 for 9, were all out for 283 in 47.5 overs.

The next two matches of the series are at Chennai, on June 9 and 10.

Earlier, Asia XI, riding on half centuries by captain Mahela Jayawardene (65) and Mohammed Yousuf (66), batted right down the order, without any batsman reaching the seventies, to post a huge 317 for nine wickets after choosing to bat first.

In reply, Africa floundered against the Asia new-ball attack of Mohammad Asif and Zaheer Khan, who shared the first five wickets, and were reduced to a sorry-reading 31 for five.

Pollock, whose previous highest ODI score was 75, thereafter, stubbornly ploughed a furrow by holding the lower order together. His magnificent innings also enabled Africa to come very close to the Asian team's total. He was finally out when he miscued Mashrafe Mortaza to Yousuf at short mid-wicket.

The South African, who completed his hundred in 88 balls, inclusive of a six and 15 fours, did not have adequate support to carry his team past the finish line after having rallied it from a hopeless position.     Before Pollock's arrival at the crease, Pakistan's Asif and Indian spearhead Zaheer proved too much for his team's top-order with their seam movement and bounce.

Asif, under a cloud after testing positive for a banned drug before the start of the ICC Champions Trophy last year and then missing the World Cup due to injury, showed clear signs of return to top form by capturing three of the first five wickets to fall.

The 24-year-old Pakistani's victims were Abraham De Villers (4), who shouldered arms and was castled, Steve Tikolo (5), who trod on his wicket, and rival team captain Justin Kemp, comprehensively bowled through the gate.

Zaheer grabbed the wickets of South Africans Loots Bosman (2) and Boeta Dippenaar, who were both snapped up in the slips cordon.

Africa recovered from these blows when two of their most experienced South African campaigners -- wicketkeeper Mark Boucher (25) and Pollock - added 46 for the sixth wicket in 48 balls.

This stand and the subsequent essay by lower order batsman Elton Chigumbura, who caught the eye with a well-made 40 (37 balls, 1 six and 5 fours). prolonged the battle much to the delight of the crowd.

Chigumbura, hoisted Harbhajan Singh for a huge six over the straight field, also put on 67 runs in 64 balls with Pollock for the eighth wicket.

This was later bettered by the 103-run partnership for the ninth wicket in 76 balls between Pollock and Thomas Odoyo (39). It was only the fourth century stand for the ninth wicket in ODI history and was broken when the latter was caught just inside the boundary line.

Pollock, who is playing the series only as a batsman, hit the ball around with impunity and power while singling out Zaheer for some rough treatment towards the end.

The defeat was the third straight one for Africa in two days of the inter-continent cricket rivalry after Tuesday's double defeat in the Twenty20 format suffered by their men and women.

Earlier, Jayawardene and Yousuf scored half centuries while Sehwag showed glimpses of his vintage form as Asia XI posted a commanding 317 for 9.

Jayawardene, who scored a match-winning hundred against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final in April, struck seven fours and a huge straight six off debutant Morne Morkel in his 62-ball 65 after the Indian duo of Sehwag (45) and Sourav Ganguly (32) provided a bright start with a half-century stand for the second wicket.

Jayawardene also got involved in a near-century partnership with Pakistan's seasoned batsman Yousuf (66 in 74 balls) as the duo consolidated the good beginning provided by Sehwag and Ganguly, who was rested for the recent ODI series in Bangladesh.

Sehwag played his pet slashes and 'off' punches in his 42-ball essay that contained seven fours and a six, while left-handed Ganguly started scratchily before playing some pleasing drives to the cover region while striking seven fours in his 29-ball knock.

The duo added 68 runs for the second wicket in only 49 balls after the early dismissal of Sri Lanka veteran Sanath Jayasuriya, who opened the innings with Sehwag. But both played on and lost their wickets just when they looked good for a bigger score.

Sehwag, who struck Kenyan Thomas Odoyo for three fours in his third over, dragged a ball from Elton Chigumbara when trying to drive well away from his body, while Ganguly played on while trying to guide a ball from the lanky Morkel to third man.

The gangling 22-year-old South African pacer, who has played only a Test so far, had earlier accounted for 'Matara marauder' Jayasuriya in the fifth over, when the left-hand batsman slashed at a ball and was well caught at backward point by a diving Abraham De Villiers.

Jayasuriya fell at 36 before Sehwag, who was dropped for the Test series in Bangladesh but played in the preceding three-match ODI series, and Ganguly pushed the score past the 100 mark in the 12th over. But both fell in a short period apart.

Jayawardene and Yousuf, who creamed five fours, then stitched together a very important partnership to take the Asia XI score past the 200 mark in 30.5 overs. The pair put on 94 runs in 100 balls before the Lanka captain fell in trying to give charge to off spinner Steve Tikolo of Kenya who troubled him a bit.

Jayawardene, after completing his 41st ODI fifty in 49 balls, attempted an almighty heave over the mid wicket but it ended as a skier to be caught by a juggling Shaun Pollock at mid off to end the partnership at 220 in the 34 the over.

Yousuf, who reached his 53rd half-century in 58 balls with four fours, then found the right ally in India's Yuvraj Singh to carry on the good work of the earlier batsmen.

The right-left fifth wicket combine added 54 runs in 47 balls before the Pakistan player drove on the up to mid-on fielder De Villiers off Arbie Morkel, bowling the first over of his second spell to end the stand.

With the slog phase already on after Asia were 265 for four, it was left to India's hard-hitting, power-relying batsmen Yuvraj and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make sure the earlier batsmen's feats did not go un-rewarded.

But Yuvraj, on 30 when Dhoni joined him, failed to prosper much and was out after adding another run to his score, caught driving at short extra cover in the first over of a new spell by Arbie's brother Morne who took his third wicket of the innings with some impressive bowling on a wicket not offering much bounce.

The departure of this set pair in the space of three runs and five balls applied the brakes on the scoring rate.

Neither Dhoni, who was run out, nor Harbhajan Singh (20 in 22 balls) could make much headway against Morne Morkel and Odoyo in the first few overs before the Indian off-spinner, out of favour with the selectors, swung Morne for a huge six over mid-wicket after he was dropped by Loots Bosman off Odoyo an over earlier.

Harbhajan also straight-drove the SA youngster for a four in the 47th over to spoil Morne Morkel's final figures but the final Asia tally, thus, fell below much below what looked to be on the cards at the start of the 41st over.

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