| Mohammed Yousuf, who hit an unbeaten 99 on Thursday
Gwalior: A genius was at work at the Roop Singh Stadium. Having turned 18 as an Indian cricketer on Thursday, he was determined to celebrate in style.
The sense of the occasion did not make him feel in awe, he evoked it. In scripting an innings of typical class and determination, Sachin Tendulkar provided more than his share. Quality control was the buzzword in his batting ó the elegant straight drive, the ferocious pull, the graceful flick off his legs. The genius was at his best.
The Pakistanis could only watch and applaud as Sachin almost single-handedly gave India an unassailable 3-1 lead in the IndianOil Cup. It was also sweet revenge for the hosts who had lost the last home series to the visitors in 2005. The series win, which is only the second by India against Pakistan at home, comes after 24 years. In 1983-84, India had won the two match series 2-0.
Sachinís 97 came in 102 balls and included 16 hits to the fence. Another century gone amiss, but that hardly mattered. It was time to celebrate the triumph.
Every shot of Sachin will be replayed in the memory. It was not only the skills that captivated, it was the assurance. The quality of his strokeplay, the purity in his technique and the calm assurance in his temperament.
Shoaib Akhtar tried to spit fire but Sachin was unrelenting. Nothing could disturb his concentration. Having survived a confident leg before shout of Shoaib, he was on toes gliding the fast bowler through covers. He repeatedly beat a packed off side field that was tailormade to stop his powerful punches.
Sachin fell to the first ball after the second drinks break, an inside edge on to his stumps off an Umar Gul delivery. India still needed 96 runs as Mahendra Singh Dhoni joined Yuvraj Singh (53 not out, 65 balls, 4x4, 1x6).
The pair ensured there were no more hiccups as the six-wicket victory was achieved with 21 balls to spare. They added 101 runs in 104 balls as Dhoni (45 not out) hit a six to seal the win.
The pair is increasingly becoming adept at ensuring a perfect finish. Like good professionals they know their game and apply it come hell or high water.
Sourav Ganguly, too, will not forget this match in a hurry. Despite failing with the bat, Sourav had a chance to celebrate when Shahid Afridi became his 100th victim. The flamboyant Pathan tried to paddle sweep, missed and was adjudged leg before. He was a tad unlucky as the ball had pitched outside the off stump at the point of impact.
If Sachin fell three short of a century, Mohammed Yousuf was left stranded on 99.
Yousuf provided the impetus to the Pakistan innings with a splendid innings as they reached 255. He needed three of the last ball to get to his hundred but managed only two to long off.
It was tailored to suit the needs after Pakistan were reduced to 134 for four in the 33rd over. Younis never took any undue risk taking 64 balls to reach his 50. Then as he gained control runs came fast, with the next 49 needing only 40 balls.
The Yousuf-Misbah-ul Haq partnership produced 91 in 90 balls for the fifth wicket. Up against an accurate Indian attack, Yousuf battled with determination. There was only one blemish towards the end of his innings ó Sourav failing to hold on to a difficult chance at square leg.
The Indian pacers made good use of the carry on the wicket at the outset. Rudra Pratap Singh was the most impressive after removing Salman Butt with the second ball of the innings.
Shoaib Malik, who opened the innings, made a patchy 31 and along with Younis Khan added 78 for the second wicket. The Pakistan vice-captain survived on six when Mahendra Singh Dhoni dropped a low chance to his left off Irfan Pathan. He had another scare when the Indians claimed a caught behind off Pathan. The Indians appeared unhappy, but TV replays showed that umpire Amiesh Saheba had made the right decision. The ball had bounced before nestling into Dhoniís gloves.
Younis made good progress, picking the gaps with ease, after Pakistan had limped to 50 in 14 overs. The vice-captain gifted Yuvraj his wicket playing the ball a bit too early.
Zaheer Khan also reached a milestone when Malik became his 200th victim. His mighty heave ended with an inside edge onto the stumps.