Nasir Jamshed and Junaid Khan were the heroes yet again as Pakistan handed India a comprehensive 85-run defeat at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, and sealed the three-match series 2-0.
As expected, Pakistan’s bowlers easily outshined India’s. What was not so predictable, however, was another solid performance by Misbah-ul-Haq’s batting line, which not only upstaged MS Dhoni’s celebrated order but also provided the one-two combo to give Pakistan a clinical series win.
The clinical bit, it can be safely said, has also comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise. It is not often very often one also sees a very reliable fielding effort by Pakistan to go with the runs and wickets. Morale and energy were also commendable and clearly the visitors had a few more miles in them than the home side.
It started with Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez coming out to bat as if they already had fifty in the bank and gained a psychological edge very early on.
While Hafeez succumbed in the same vein at 76 off 74 balls, Jamshed kicked on to stretch his tally to 106 off 124 balls. What was special about this knock by the left-handed opener was his resolute attitude, which meant that Pakistan ended up posting a healthy 250 despite suffering a middle order collapse.
In the last couple of games, Shoaib Malik’s assured presence in the middle has provided the perfect foil to the batting line which is prone to sliding often. Although his 24 runs in Kolkata may not seem as massive on the scoreboard, his stay at the crease shielded the tail for a bit longer even as they were eventually wiped out in 48.3 overs.
The chase from India was a strange one as Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag both struggled against the steepling bounce and swing of Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan.
Sehwag, clearly under pressure, was very much unlike himself, and it seems he can no longer just rely on hand-eye coordination. Gambhir followed a similar fate. His 11 from 25 balls seemed the most indecisive knock for a batsman of his caliber. Junaid ended his misery and also accounted for Virat Kohli (6) through a brilliant diving catch by Kamran Akmal behind the stumps. Umar Gul ended Sehwag (31) and Yuvraj Singh’s (9) stay.
At 4-70 it was always going to be tough and, perhaps, Dhoni, India’s best batsman in the series, should have come in earlier. His 54 from 89 was a resigned innings at best and his few adventurous strokes at the end could have come in a little earlier.
Dhoni’s ‘tuk-tuk’ just delayed the inevitable as Junaid returned to clean up Ishant Sharma and end with match figures of 9-39-3. With the win, Pakistan maintained their unblemished record against India at Eden Gardens, and have now made it four out of four. They also became the only side other than Australia to hand India a home series defeat in ODIs in the previous 10 years.
The two teams will now head to New Delhi for the third ODI, where Pakistan can further test its bench, a fast bowler in Anwar Ali and a talented left-handed batsman in Haris Sohail.