| When in trouble... Rahul Dravid pulls off the rescue act in Lahore. (Reuters)
Lahore, March 21: The script is unfolding as it should in a goodwill series. But who cares'
India 2, Pakistan 2. One match to go.
Even the Mumbai moviewallahs present at the Gaddafi Stadium today couldn’t have conjured up a more tantalising last scene for cricket fans.
Nor could they have thought of a better pairing than Rahul Dravid (76) and Mohammad Kaif (71) who led India to a five-wicket win with five overs to spare in the fourth one-dayer.
“Aapne dil bhi jita aur match bhi jita,” Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called captain Sourav Ganguly to say.
Talking of hearts, millions will be aflutter from now till Wednesday when the decider is played here.
Sourav had that “I-told-you-so” look about him after the victory. But there were several moments when things looked like getting out of control — Inzamam-ul Haq’s brilliant 123 and Shoaib Akhtar’s fiery opening spell of 5-1-29-2 being the most important.
When the winning runs came off Kaif’s bat, there was no public show of exuberance — only a sigh of relief.
In the dressing room, as the players celebrated, the skipper stepped aside from the glare and instead sent the unbroken sixth wicket pair to the media conference.
“When I walked in, the pace (India’s run rate) was really scorching. It was a question of batting till the end. We lost Sourav but Yuvraj Singh kept the tempo up. Later Kaif never let the run-rate drop and kept rotating the strike which made things easier,” Dravid said.
He put on 132 in 130 balls with Kaif.
“The guys at the top of the order had set the pace. It was just that we lost an extra wicket. It was just a matter of lasting through the tempo,” he added.
Dravid acknowledged the support of several thousand raucous Indian fans. In the VIP box, there was the maiden and the minister — Mandira Bedi and Ravishankar Prasad — and the movie man and the businessman — Suniel Shetty and Gautam Singhania.
“The support was phenomenal and we’re happy that we have been able to provide them with the right result,” Dravid, delighted to be batting at No. 5, said.
“I enjoy batting at this position. Having Yuve and Kaif has helped develop my batting. It’s nice to have people around who can run swiftly between wickets and perform.”
Man-of-the-match Inzamam was full of praise for Dravid. “He played according to the situation. The way they pulled it up after being 94 for 4 at one stage was superb.”
Sourav described as “fantastic” the match-winning partnership.
“It’s amazing how Kaif keeps coming up with good knocks even batting at a difficult No. 7 position,” he said.
Indians have been poor chasers, a record that has earned them the tag of “chokers”. Today’s win should free them from that shackle.
As Kaif said: “It’s all in the mind and you’ve got to go out and play well. That’s what I did today.”
Jubilant Indian fans danced in the stands and out in the streets. Lahore cheered them on.