Misbahul Haq had lost hope of winning the series at Eden Gardens after Pakistan were shot out for 250.
But exceptional performance by the bowlers – complemented aptly by a poor batting display by Indian batsmen – allowed him to smile and celebrate a series-success in India after seven years courtesy the 85-run win under lights in Kolkata yesterday.
“This wasn’t a winning score,” said the captain. “The pitch, the conditions and the strong Indian batting line-up meant that anything under 290 would’ve been difficult to defend. Our score gave us a fighting chance but nothing more. And then our fast-bowlers performed exceptionally well and by the 20th over, the match was firmly in our hands. The conditions have been exploited well by them and the quality of bowling has given us the edge over India in the series.”
India needed just over five an over to square the series. Virendar Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir started steadily, reaching 42 in the 10th over before the threatening Junaid Khan delivered. Umar Gul joined in as first-change and while Mohammad Irfan went wicketless in his opening spell, the awkward bounce and the ability to restrict run-flow remained key in the historic victory.
“It’s a happy occasion for Pakistan. The best thing about it is that we’ve been struggling with fast-bowlers but the way the three bowled in Kolkata, and before, and the kind of backup we have on the bench, it’s a huge sign for Pakistan cricket. The individual contributions are finally converting into wins and it’s brilliant for us. Playing the kind of cricket we’re playing right now, that is an achievement in itself.”
The fighting total, and the win, was ably crafted by left-hand opener Nasir Jamshed who just cannot stop scoring against India. Yesterday, he scored his third consecutive One-Day International century against India. Misbah duly credited Jamshed as the man responsible for taking Pakistan to 250 while his counterpart, MS Dhoni, called dismissing the opener a major challenge ahead of the final match in Delhi on Sunday.
“The score we made was courtesy the start we got,” added Misbah. “Jamshed is good and showing maturity but the best thing about him is that he wants to play through 50 overs. He has the talent and the strokes but his temperament and the composure is key to his success, something that will make him a better player.”
The teams now move on to Delhi for the final match of the tour taking place on Sunday. There is a training session and a High Commission dinner to take place before that but the ‘great win’ already in the bag, according to Misbah, is on level with the 3-0 whitewash over England at the start of last year.
“It’s disappointing. What you really want is the experienced players to perform so the youngsters can be groomed. If the seniors are not performing, the pressure then piles up on the juniors.”
You can view a slideshow of the match here.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2013.