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Mauled, by the master bowler

Kochi, April 2: Pervez Musharraf must be relieved he couldn't make it for the opening ODI, or else he would have had to watch Pakistan getting mowed down by a rejuvenated India.

The President may be a sport, but smiling on a day the arch-rivals got everything right would have called for some effort.

Going by the latest ICC rankings, the hosts authored an upset as the visitors are four places higher ' at No. 4. However, an India versus Pakistan face-off isn't only about rankings.

Momentum and psychological advantage carry greater weightage ' well, India grabbed both with the 87-run victory, ending the distressing sequence of successive defeats (four). Chasing 282, Pakistan got bowled out for 194 in the 46th over.

'That we hadn't won after the Lahore decider (last March) wasn't on my mind.... For me, the past ' good or bad ' is history,' a mighty pleased Sourav Ganguly told The Telegraph.

The Team India captain failed again, but drew strength from the comfortable win at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium.

Sourav, in fact, brought off a splendid catch to dismiss the threatening Salman Butt. Later, he quipped: 'After a long time, I actually did something on the field!'

Come tomorrow, of course, and the janata will be talking of this 1-0 lead, not the defeat in Bangalore which allowed Pakistan to level the Test series.

Yet, with India two down for four and a 'life' to eventual MoM Virender Sehwag, it had seemed the ODI was quickly heading Pakistan's way.

Sehwag and vice-captain Rahul Dravid, both of whom excelled in the Test series, then posted a third wicket best against Pakistan ' 201 in as many balls. It severely dented Inzamam-ul Haq's ambitions.

Both completed centuries: Sehwag totalled 108 (off 95 deliveries, 9x4, 3x6) with two let offs; Dravid made 104 (139 balls, 6x4). Given the dehydrating heat and humidity, the centuries should rank among the finest ever in such demanding conditions.

It was so bad that, in an unusual first, a garden umbrella and chairs were taken out for Dravid and Sehwag during drinks. A repeat in centres like Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad won't surprise.

The support staff too, therefore, has its task cut out.

Butt and Kamran Akmal gave Pakistan an aggressive launch ' 45 in a shade above six overs ' but once Lakshmipathy Balaji effected a breakthrough, the visitors kept stumbling.

Part-time spinner Sachin Tendulkar proved most destructive, registering his second five-wicket haul here. He's the type to contribute elsewhere if he fails with the bat. Today, Sachin made amends with that terrific five for 50.

Asked whether he 'expected' Sachin to emerge the most successful on either side, Sourav responded with a classic 'I don't expect anything from this game.... But, yes, things happen'.

For Pakistan, though, nothing happened.

'The target was achievable.... Mushkil nahin tha, but we kept losing wickets,' rued Inzamam. His own dismissal, castled by Sachin on 37 (112 for five), confirmed India couldn't lose.

'That was the turning point,' is how Sourav, who won the toss, put it. Few are going to argue.

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