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Plunder in Pindi

Last updated on: April 16, 2004 16:47 IST

Scorecard | Images from Day 4 | Match Reports: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

India won the three-Test series against Pakistan 2-1 shortly after lunch on Day 4 of the third Test in Rawalpindi on Friday.

In winning the Test by an innings and 131 runs, India also recorded their first series victory over Pakistan in Pakistan.

Anil Kumble claimed four wickets and Lakshmipathy Balaji took three as India crushed the hosts.

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But in the euphoria of India's triumph one cannot forget the brave stand of Pakistan middle-order batsman Asim Kamal, who was stranded on 60 not out when he ran out of partners. He batted after taking pain-killing injections.

Rahul Dravid was adjudged the man-of-the-match for his brilliant 270 while Virender Sehwag won the man-of-the-series award after scoring 438, including the record-breaking 309, at an average of 109.50. Kumble was the best bowler for the Indians in the series, claiming 15 wickets at an average of 25.93.

Morning session

Before the start of play on Day 4, the Pakistan dressing room was shrouded in silence. Skipper Inzamam-ul Haq stared listlessly into the distance and one could almost feel he was resigned to defeat.

The Indians, on the other hand, looked an elated lot. They believed their time had come and victory was theirs for the taking.

Yes, they had some business to take care of before the real party could begin. But with two full days to go and eight wickets to get, they were on the brink of winning a Test series abroad and making history.

Winning a series abroad is the albatross for the Indians. A combination of bad luck and nerves had often seen them falter at the last step. In the recent past we have notched Test victories abroad with consistency but a series victory was elusive. But with each win India were putting a few of their demons to rest.

The overcast conditions too played into the hands of the Indian bowlers. There would be lot more movement off the wicket and in the air. For Pakistan, it seemed as if the gods were turning on them.

Night-watchman Akmal attacked early. Three fours in the first over bowled by Balaji showed his intentions. Last night he had adopted the same approach. But what works one day may not work on another. That is the rule of life and cricket. The young wicket-keeper perhaps paid the price for being over aggressive.

In the second over, Yuvraj Singh, at forward short leg, dropped the easiest of catches off the bowling of Pathan to give Akmal a life. With the pitch coming into play now, the ball stopped on the batsmen. Akmal pushed at it and literally looped the ball to Yuvraj, who made a hash of the chance. On any other day he might have taken that catch with closed eyes.

But Akmal did not last long. Balaji would not let him. The Tamil Nadu medium-pacer got him with a beauty. The ball shaped like an out-swinger, hit the seam, nipped in sharply. Akmal played for the swing, missed the ball completely and his off-stump was sent for a walk. (64-3)

Akmal scored 23, with five boundaries, and put on 30 for the third wicket with Yasser Hameed.

With every defeat in the past, the PCB has adopted a policy of chop and change. Inzamam walked in with that scepter hanging above his head. Would he be made the scapegoat of this latest setback?

This is just about when the 'butter-finger' syndrome caught up with the Indians. After dropping Akmal early, the Indians dropped three catches in the space off 16 balls. Hameed, on 8, was dropped by Tendulkar, at point off Balaji. Inzamam, on 8, was dropped in the slips by Dravid off the unlucky Balaji once again. Then Hameed got another life on 13. This time it was Kumble who was the culprit.

Something seemed to be happening with virtually every ball. Balaji, so long regarded as a stock bowler, showed his full repertoire with out-swingers, in-swingers, in-cutters, in-dippers, leg-cutters and the odd slower ball thrown in. That is a hard combination for any batsman to counter. And it was no surprise to see the Pakistanis struggle.

Ganguly introduced Ashish Nehra into the attack and, as with everything he has tried in this Test, it worked. Off just his second ball Nehra sent Hameed (20 off 38 balls) back to the hut. The ball was on the legs and the batsman tried to turn it away to fine leg. But he got it a little too fine and Parthiv Patel dived full length to his left to take a one-handed catch. (90-4)

The next over, Balaji drove a spike deep into Pakistan's heart when he claimed the wicket of Inzamam (9 off 29 balls). Without doubt, the Pakistani skipper is his side's most talented batsman, but against a seaming ball even the best falter. A perfect out-swinger got the edge and Patel did the rest. (94-5)

The game at this point was over. The Pakistanis had only pride to play for. Asim Kamal joined Yousuf Youhana at the wicket. Kamal was badly injured after taking a hit in the field but showed great courage. He winced in pain after facing every ball and his stroke play was severely restricted but he held on. One could feel nothing but admiration for his brave stand.

At the other end, Ganguly made an odd decision. The Indian skipper introduced himself into the attack when even someone like Kumble would have been more useful. With his introduction the batsmen settled.

Youhana was in an attacking, almost one-dayer mode. Snicks and edges were a feature of his innings to start of with but then he started to stroke the ball with confidence. Even before coming out to bat it was obvious he had decided to go down with all guns blazing.

Ganguly finally took himself out of the attack after conceding 18 runs in his four overs. Kumble was introduced in his stead and got the breakthrough in the second over of his spell. He had a simple caught and bowled wicket after deceiving Youhana in the flight. (175-6)

The right-hander scored 48 off 61 balls, including nine fours and put on 81 runs with Kamal.

The ace leg-spinner struck again in his next over to dismiss Sami for a duck. For a change he got his wicket with an orthodox leg-spinner. The ball turned took the edge and Dravid, at first slip, made no mistake. (179-7)

Shoaib Akhtar came in next. For someone who was too injured to take the field, it was surprising to see him hit the ball a long distance. The first five balls he faced yielded 18 runs (4, 4, 0, 4, 6) and for the first time in the day the crowds roared their approval. That turned out to be the last bit of action for the first session.

In the 30-over session, Pakistan had scored 148 runs for the loss of 5 wickets.

Post-lunch session

The end was near. The Pakistan batsmen could do little to avert it. They had the option of staying at the wicket for two days, but that would be tough. So they decided to attack.

Akhtar tried to continue the carnage. But he survived only one Kumble over in which he got 10 runs, 1 four and 1 six. The next over, he (28 off 14 balls) top-edged an intended hook over mid-wicket and Nehra took an easy catch. (221-8)

Kamal, at the other end, reached a well-deserved fifty even as the Pakistanis went hell for leather; the first six overs after lunch had yielded 41 runs. But the fight and pluck had come too late and was in a lost cause.

Kumble took another wicket, that of Fazl-e-Akbar, for 12. (244-9)

Pakistan were down to their last wicket and Danish Kaneria did not make the Indians wait long. Tendulkar was introduced into the attack and he promptly got Kaneria's wicket. The right-hander attempted a cross-batted heave after facing just one ball and Sourav Ganguly held on to this one well.

India won by an innings and 131 runs and also registered their first series victory over Pakistan in Pakistan.

11 years and 50 Tests had passed since the team's last triumph overseas. To win against Pakistan in Pakistan is sweet indeed. Most teams dream of making winning a habit. India has the resources to make that dream a reality.

Ashish Magotra