KARACHI, March 13: India pulled off an astonishing five-run victory over Pakistan in one of the finest limited over matches seen in the game's history to give the long-awaited cricket series between two arch-rivals a dream start before a capacity National Stadium crowd on Saturday.
On a day when a world record number of runs were scored in a One-day International, Pakistan were set the almost impossible task of overhauling India's highest-ever ODI score of 349 for seven for victory.
Pakistan not known as good chasers, however, took the gauntlet led by example of skipper Inzamamul Haq, came agonizingly close to achieving the impossible.
It was an unbelievable day's cricket that saw 693 runs scored off 100 overs - a world record - as batsmen of both the teams put the bowlers to the sword with a flurry of exciting strokes.
Indians must now consider National Stadium as a happy hunting ground as it was their second successive win here. They also beat Pakistan during 1997 tour.
In the end it was the game of cricket that was the winner and in the process it also ended all apprehensions about security raised in recent weeks by the visiting teams. The crowd behaviour was exemplary throughout the day and won praise from none other than Indian cricket chief, Jagmohan Dalmiya.
No untoward incident happened as the spectators showed discipline and the attitude of law enforcement personnel also marked a change for the better. Of course, the authorities took nothing for granted in making the security arrangements as foolproof as possible.
Another pleasant feature of the match was that scores of Indians waving their country's flags mingled with Pakistanis in the stadium without fear or acrimony.
"It is difficult to remember a better one-dayer. It is good to start the series with a win but it was too close for comfort.
"Frankly, keeping the runs down in the last three overs and the brilliant catch by Mohammad Kaif to remove Shoaib Malik did the trick for us," a relieved Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly, later told a press conference.
Inzamam, who played one of the finest one-day innings, later told the post-match press conference he was not disappointed at losing. "You can't be disappointed after playing a match like this," he said.
"As Saurav said cricket was the ultimate winner. We fought till the end and the crowd had a lot to cheer the whole day," he said.
The visitors left for Rawalpindi late Saturday night to play their second ODI - a day and night fixture - on Tuesday.
India win thriller despite Inzamam's grand century
KARACHI, March 13: India held their nerve to cling onto a nail-biting victory after Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq stroked a magnificent century in the ground-breaking first One-day International at the National Stadium here on Saturday.
The opening encounter of the five-match one-day series, which is to be followed by three Tests, was an emotionally-charged affair with cricket emerging as the winner, notwithstanding India's narrow five-run win after Pakistan made a gallant attempt to chase a record target of 350.
India's score of 349 for seven was based aroundRahul Dravid, who was desperately unlucky to miss a well-deserved century.
Inzamam, who made his ninth century in 308 ODIs, kept Pakistan's fading hopes alive with 122 off 117 balls, but his dismissal at 278 in the 42nd over tilted the balance India's way. After striking 12 fours and two sixeshe nicked a catch to Dravid behind the stumps.
The decisive moment of the match came in the penultimate over when Shoaib Malik was brilliantly caught on the run by a diving Mohammad Kaif, who nearly collided with Hemang Badani running in from long-on.
Pakistan needed nine runs for victory in the last over of the match, but left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra gave away just three singles and also claimed the scalp of Moin Khan, caught at cover by Saurav Ganguly off the final delivery.
Pakistan, generally considered poor chasers, responded superbly despite losing their openers Yasir Hameed (seven) and Imran Farhat (24) with only 34 runs on the board.
Yasir played across the line and was comprehensively bowled by Lakshmipathy Balaji in the only maiden over of the entire game. Imran hit four boundaries before left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan had the left-hander caught behind for 24.
Yousuf Youhana looked in prime touch in making 73 off 68 balls during a third-wicket partnership of 135 in 120 balls with Inzamam. The Pakistan vice-captain slammed four sixes, three of them in the long-off region, and five fours until part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag had him caught by substitute Irfan Pathan inside the boundary.
Inzamam and Younis Khan, playing his first game since last October's tie against South Africa, then put on 109 in 88 balls for the fourth wicket, but thereafter Pakistan failed to get a decent partnership going. Younis made a 48-ball 46.
Tactically, Pakistan blundered in their team selection and paid the penalty for playing just five specialist bowlers on a benign pitch that was never likely to offer any help. As the Indian innings motored along merrily, the absence of all-rounder Shahid Afridi was acutely felt.
Inzamam, surprisingly, elected to field first after winning the toss. The visitors seized upon the chance to put up a massive score on the board as Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami offered both Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar the width.
Sehwag, however, was fortunate to escape before he had scored when Shoaib Malik floored a sitter in the covers in the match's first over. India then got another lucky break when Tendulkar, on seven, was caught by Younis Khan off a Shoaib Akhtar no-ball.
Sehwag clattered Sami for three boundaries in one over as the 50 of the partnership took 38 balls. However, Shoaib had his revenge when Tendulkar (28)was smartly held in the gully by Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan.
Sehwag continued in his belligerent mood and blasted 14 boundaries in a blistering 79 off 57 balls. Ganguly, who hit three fours and two sixes in scoring 45 off 45 balls, was a silent spectator after opening his account with a six as Sehwag cut and drove as the pair added 73 for the second wicket.
Dravid anchored the innings in his immaculate upright style with some elegant strokes, including eight boundaries, during his 108-ball knock. On reaching 99, he moved too far across inside his crease to flick Shoaib Akhtar for a single, but only managed to get a faint edge onto the stumps.
Kaif struck a 56-ball 46, which was laced with four hits to the fence as he and Dravid came together to share a partnership of 118 at run-a-ball.
Rana Naveed, the medium-pacer, made an excellent comeback after conceding 24 runs in his first over. He picked up three wickets for 73 in an unbroken stint of 10 overs from the University End. The biggest disappointment however, was Razzaq, who was thrashed at will by Indians. The all-rounder gave away 83 runs in nine overs.
Pakistan's overall bowling lacked discipline with 30 runs coming in the form of 20 no-balls and 10 wides. In sharp contrast, the Indian bowlers conceded seven wides and two no-balls, which was the main difference between winning and losing.
Statistically, the match run aggregate of 693 was the highest ever in 2112 One-day Internationals played since 1970-71, surpassing 664 made by Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Singapore in 1996. Pakistan's total of 344 for eight in 50 overs was also the highest by a team batting second and losing, outstripping the 329 scored by Sri Lanka against the West Indies at Sharjah in 1995-96. Moreover, both teams recorded their highest totals against each other in 87 ODIs.
V. Sehwag c S. Malik b Rana Naveed 79
S.R. Tendulkar c Rana Naved b S. Akhtar 28
S.C. Ganguly c and b Rana Naveed 45
R.S. Dravid b S. Akhtar 99
Yuvraj Singh c Yasir b Rana Naveed 3
Mohammad Kaif lbw b Sami 46
H.K. Badani not out 8
Zaheer Khan b Sami 0
M. Kartik not out 3
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-7, W-10, NB-20) 38
TOTAL (for seven wkts, 50 overs) 349
FALL OF WKTS: 1-69, 2-142, 3-214, 4-220, 5-338, 6-344, 7-344.
DID NOT BAT: L. Balaji, A. Nehra.
BOWLING: Shoaib Akhtar 10-0-55-2 (3nb, 7w); Mohammad Sami 10-0-74-2 (5nb, 3w); Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan 10-0-73-3 (7nb); Abdul Razzaq 9-0-83-0 (4nb); Shoaib Malik 10-0-50-0 (1nb); Yasir Hameed 1-0-6-0.
Yasir Hameed b Balaji 7
Imran Farhat c Dravid b Zaheer 24
Yousuf Youhana c sub (Pathan) b Sehwag 73
Inzamam-ul-Haq c Dravid b Kartik 122
Younis Khan b Kartik 46
Abdul Razzaq b Zaheer 27
Moin Khan c Zaheer b Nehra 16
Shoaib Malik c Kaif b Zaheer 7
Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan not out 3
EXTRAS (LB-10, W-7, NB-2) 19
TOTAL (for eight wkts, 50 overs) 344
DID NOT BAT: Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami.
FALL OF WKTS: 1-32, 2-34, 3-169, 4-278, 5-305, 6-322, 7-340, 8-344.
BOWLING: Balaji 10-1-56-1 (1w); Zaheer Khan 10-0-66-3 (2nb, 2w); Nehra 10-0-58-1 (1w); Kartik 10-0-74-2 (3w); Ganguly 1-0-14-0; Tendulkar 3-0-34-0; Sehwag 6-0-32-1.
SECOND MATCH: March 16, Rawalpindi (D/N).
THIRD MATCH: March 19, Peshawar.
FOURTH MATCH: March 21, Lahore (D/N).
FIFTH MATCH: March 24, Lahore (D/N)