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'Vintage' is an understatement when India meets Pakistan

The atmosphere was electric, the hype was stupendous and the build-up hysterical. If the match still lives up to its billing, it only means everyone witnessed something beyond the ordinary. The first 5 overs were part of the Sehwag show, an adrenaline pumping, action packed onslaught against one of the world’s finest bowlers; anyone who has seen it would know that it cannot be matched even by the most exciting high speed car chases. But Sehwag chose to leave the match to others, instead of finishing it off in the next 10 overs and as Manjrekar pointed out, sanity returned to the proceedings.

A lot of people, including me, believe Sachin is an avatar of God and we had every reason to believe it today for altogether different reasons. Four dropped catches, a seemingly plumb LBW reversed by DRS and a mighty close stumping; by the end of it all, Sachin seemed almost embarrassed to be still at the crease and I for one cannot seem to remember if it had ever happened before; and believe me, 21 years is a long time. But he struggled a lot and the great player that he is, like Ian Chappell pointed out, he still found a way to be the highest run scorer on either side today.

The middle overs were depressing for Indians and exhilarating for Pakistanis, with Wahab Riaz for a few moments looking like a young former Pakistani left arm maestro at his peak. India were in a hole when Raina walked out against Australia and it wasn’t very different today either. To me the 34 runs he scored were worth their weight in gold and probably the difference between an Indian victory and defeat.

It was one of those pitches where 260 wasn’t enough, but not easy to achieve either. Pakistan needed someone to stay on the crease and they found that player in Misbah. Only, someone forgot to tell him it was an ODI and not the 5th day of a Test match with 3 sessions to survive. Two things will haunt Pakistanis for a long time; the brain-freeze of Hafeez when he was batting so well and the decision to not take the powerplay until it was too late. Only Afridi and Waqar will know the reasons. Here are my champagne aspects of the match that were a connoisseur’s delight.

  1. Dhoni’s captaincy – 25 runs, unnerving calmness and one of the sharpest cricketing minds on a field; I will take that combination any day.
  2. Nehra for Ashwin – It can still be considered as a blunder, because the pitch threw a googly at Dhoni. But Dhoni showed once again that he has the Midas touch. 10 overs, 33 runs and 2 wickets, you will take that from Nehra any day and these are, correct me if I am wrong, the best bowling figures for an Indian bowler against a Test playing nation in this WC.
  3. India’s fielding is average now, which means they have lifted themselves more than a few notches from their initial standards.
  4. The left-armers, first Wahab and then Zaheer and Nehra. There is some magic about them, which is far more attractive and pleasing to the eye than the right-armers over the wicket.
  5. The whole-heartedness with which Afridi congratulated India and said sorry to his nation will remain etched in my memory for a long time. Indians and Pakistanis can take a leaf out of his book for once.
  6. The boyish joy with which Tendulkar hugged Dhoni after the match showed how much this match and its result meant to him.

Obviously I am not a cricket analyst or expert, but at 55:45 in India’s favor, I hope the dream of winning an ODI WC final comes true for Sachin – the best ODI batsmen the world has ever seen, by a fair margin!

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