| Sachin Tendulkar smashes a six in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. (PTI)
Ahmedabad: Inzamam-ul Haq is hardly known to show much emotion on the field. This series, though, has been different.
The Pakistan captain was at the end of the International Cricket Council's wrath for 'abuse of cricket equipment' after being run out in Visakhapatnam. On Tuesday, he celebrated with clenched fist and a jump of joy after he guided the final delivery between point and gully to the fence.
It was a remarkable effort from the visitors that saw the match go down to the wire with the scores tied. The Indians had gambled upon by bringing in Sachin Tendulkar to bowl the last over, but Inzamam's experience and calm attitude finally brought off the three-wicket victory.
Inzamam's unbeaten 60 off 59 balls ensured the Pepsi series stayed alive till the last match at the Kotla.
While the Indians struggled with lack of penetrative bowling and inept fielding in defending a total of 315, the visitors showed tremendous planning and attitude in going for the chase.
After Shahid Afridi had set the tone with a thunderous 40 off 23 balls, Salman Butt, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik played their role to perfection. The singles were not missed and there was no intention of taking any undue risk.
The run-rate of around six an over was maintained right through making the task of the lower-order to carry on the fight that bit easier. Even two quick run outs in the closing stages had no impact.
Inzamam was ruled Man of the Match, but it could well have been Malik, who followed up on his three wickets with a vital run-a-ball 65. What would have transpired had Yuvraj Singh held onto Malik's cut at point (the batsman was then on 32) will remain a matter of conjecture.
The Indians' apprehensions on the wicket crumbling in the later stages never materialised. The organiser, though, didn't take any chances, 'watering the track the evening before to bind the top surface'. It resulted in damp patches, an hour's delay and the match being restricted to 48 overs.
Nothing, however, could stop Sachin Tendulkar in his endeavour. It is unfortunate that his 38th one-day century ended in a losing cause. The resolve to make an impact in this series could not be missed as he went through an extended session at nets on Monday. Sachin Tendulkar was determined not to let the Pakistan bowling dictate terms and it showed in his approach.
Bothered by cramps in hands and feet, he writhed in pain but continued. The arrival of Virender Sehwag as runner lessened the burden somewhat. With regular attention from physio John Gloster, he carried the hopes of the team. His 123 (197 balls, 12x4, 2x6) was a timely reminder to many who have been doubting his effectiveness. That the effort finally ended in a losing cause is another story.
As an unusually quiet Virender Sehwag departed failing to beat a Younis Khan throw from short mid wicket, Sachin took charge. He found an able ally in Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the pair added 129 in 135 balls in an entertaining stand.
Dhoni showed maturity in his selection of strokes during his 47-run cameo off 65 balls. Only once did he err in judgement when Kamran Akmal missed an easy stumping chance.
Sachin's devastating attack not only rocked the Pakistan bowling but also left a television cameraman injured on the long-on fence. The six off Danish Kaneria landed straight on his head, as he was glued to the camera, sending down shockwaves through the ranks.
The incident happened close to the visitors' dressing room and the entire support staff, including coach Bob Woolmer, stepped in to offer help. Even Sachin was left anxiou. Thankfully, the cameraman was 'fine' and 'out of danger' by the evening.
While Sachin's return to runs was a welcome sign, Sourav continued to disappoint. The Team India captain perished in an attempt to accelerate after having done the groundwork. He will repent misjudging the single after having escaped a stumping a couple of balls earlier.
The 10,000th run will now have to wait. The critics, too, can take a break and Sourav will have time to reflect upon his shortcomings and go back to the drawing board.