New Delhi: In wintry Delhi, after a frozen batting effort left Pakistan a target of 168, it was India’s bowlers who found some fire with a clinical effort that averted a clean sweep of the ODI series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck two early blows and was ably assisted by the debutant Shami Ahmed, while Ishant Sharma struck telling blows in his second and third spells as India clinched a face-saving victory by ten runs at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday.
India’s spinners also played a big role. R Ashwin produced two crucial breakthroughs as Pakistan’s jittery batting came to the fore after a rare failure by Nasir Jamshed, and Ravindra Jadeja had superb figures of 10-2-19-1. Ishant’s removal of Shoaib Malik in the 37th over saw the last six wickets fell for 38 runs, including 2 for 12 in the batting Powerplay, to give India a victory they desperately needed ahead of a five-ODI series against England starting Friday.
Bhuvneshar gave India an early wicket by bringing one sharply into Kamran Akmal, who was given lbw for 0 in the third over. He then nipped one past Younis Khan’s defense to bowl the veteran for 6 in the seventh over. Ahmed, the seamer from Bengal, began his career with two maiden overs in a tidy spell (5-3-12-0) as Pakistan managed 22 off the first ten overs. Jamshed, who reeled off centuries in the first two ODIs to extend his run of excellent form against India, pottered around for 21 balls before hitting his first four. He faced three maiden overs from Ahmed and was beaten repeatedly but, having rounded off Bhuvneshwar’s unbroken ten-over spell with a languid extra-cove drive for four and hit his first ball from Ashwin to the long-on boundary, looked to have settled for another significant innings. However, attempting to paddle Ashwin’s next ball, he was adjudged lbw for 34 off 64.
Misbah, at this stage on 20 from 41 balls, was given a life seven runs later when MS Dhoni put down a thick outside edge that Jadeja extracted. Ashwin helped Pakistan’s cause by conceding ten runs in wides during his first three overs, with Dhoni both times unable to collect the ball down the leg side. By the time he was eventually removed for 39 off 82, tickling Ashwin to leg slip, the target for Pakistan was 55 runs in 95 deliveries.
From here, Pakistan threatened to unravel spectacularly. Ishant Sharma returned and removed Malik for 5 by winning a marginal lbw call with one that struck the batsman just outside the line. Jadeja then had Umar stumped for 25 off 50 balls and bowled. With 34 to get from 50 balls, Mohammad Hafeez was dropped on 7 by Ajinkya Rahane at leg slip. The pressure, though, had got to Pakistan.
Umar Gul (11) swung the first ball of Ishant’s third spell to long-on, at which time Pakistan needed 24 from 22, and one run later Dhoni held his 200th catch after Ahmed drew a nick from Saeed Ajmal. A direct hit from Suresh Raina next ball left India one wicket from victory, and it came after some nervous moments. Having conceded two four and failed to hit the stumps after short fine leg relayed a throw, Ishant got the last wicket when Hafeez heaved to Yuvraj Singh at midwicket.
Such a spirited bowling and fielding effort had been difficult to envisage after India had been bowled out for 167, with the tone for that limp effort, almost predictably, being set in the first ten overs. Rahane, drafted in for his 13th ODI in place of a the struggling Virender Sehwag, made just 4 off 11 balls before nibbling at Mohammad Irfan in the fifth over. Irfan followed up his successful third over with a maiden to Gautam Gambhir full of short and short-of-a-length deliveries, and then in his next got his man as Gambhir steered a short ball to point for a 27-ball 15.
Consecutive fours off the next two balls from Irfan got Yuvraj purring but Junaid Khan, in the fifth over of a probing opening spell, got a leaden-footed Virat Kohli to edge to second slip. India’s No. 3, after a stellar 2012, has made 6 and 7 this year with his technique exposed by left-arm seam.
At 37 for 3, India were heaving. A spirited fightback offered hope, but it too was short-lived. Junaid bowled seven overs before being replaced by Gul, who Yuvraj greeted with a fine back-foot punch past extra cover for four and then walloped over his head to the straight boundary. Gul’s opening over went for 18 with Suresh Raina pulling the last ball for four. The introduction of Hafeez, however, ended the fun for Yuvraj. Beaten for turn, he was bowled by the offspinner’s fifth delivery to leave India 63 for 4 in the 16th over. It was Yuvraj’s third poor dismissal in the series, with the angled bat proving his downfall on two occasions.
Raina (31) and Dhoni (36) put on 48 to give India false hopes. The wickets of Raina and Ashwin in consecutive deliveries during Ajmal’s fourth over set into motion India’s second slide. Dhoni departed in the first over of the batting Powerplay, cutting Gul straight to point, and Ajmal added Bhuvneshwar and Jadeja (27) to finish with career-best figures of 5 for 24. India’s last six wickets had fallen for 56 runs.
In the end, that total proved enough to deny Pakistan victory and helped India avert their first home bilateral ODI clean sweep since 1983-84.