| Yuvraj Singh after his century on Wednesday
Karachi: The fuss over when to declare was, after all, quite unnecessary on Pakistan’s part: India’s capitulation was shameless, with the second innings lasting under four-and-half hours ' an effort which made a mockery of the respect shown by Messrs Younis Khan and Bob Woolmer.
Till last week, both teams were peeved with the flat wickets in the first two Tests. Yet, the third and final one, at the National Stadium, ended (on Wednesday) with more than a day to spare. Obviously, chief curator Agha Zahid had the last laugh.
While Pakistan pocketed the Allianz Cup, the visitors got the dubious distinction of claiming a hattrick in the very first over (Irfan Pathan’s) and still losing. This demoralising ‘record’ may stay for years.
Incidentally, the dubious bit got scripted on the 25th ‘anniversary’ of the Greg Chappell-directed underarm bowling episode. Also, amidst whispers of “sharp differences” between two very influential members of the touring party.
Actually, Pakistan’s best batsman ' regular captain Inzamam-ul Haq ' didn’t even play and the toss was won by India. The home team’s recovery from six down for 39 brought back memories of the splendid rally from six down for 26 during the Asian Test Championship face-off at the Eden seven years ago.
The architect of the recovery here, centurion Kamran Akmal, was adjudged the Man-of-the-Match.
Nobody expected Team India to chase 607, but with so much at stake, most expected at least a competitive response. In reality, the innings (which began 50 minutes before lunch and ended 96 minutes after tea) was an excellent lesson in not being competitive.
In a “marquee series,” Indian coach Chappell’s description, Pakistan weren’t stretched in avenging the 1-2 defeat two years ago.
Shoaib Akhtar was to have been the biggest threat, but Mohammed Asif tore into the top order with a Glenn McGrath-like discipline. Surely, he’s one for the present and the future. Then, the somewhat underrated Abdul Razzaq took over. He doesn’t have Shoaib’s pace, but swung the ball at will.
The breakthrough, of course, was provided by Shoaib who induced the most faint of edges from Rahul Dravid. For the Test to be saved, the captain had to drop anchor. His dismissal, on the fifth delivery, confirmed there could only be one result.
“There wasn’t much to think... Just play out each session... If we’d played out five, then anything could have happened... But, really, we didn’t think that ahead,” acknowledged Dravid, under whom India have suffered the two biggest (runs-wise) defeats: 341 at the National Stadium and 342 versus Australia, in Nagpur, 15 months ago.
Inzamam attributed the win to “team effort,” while stand-in captain (and Man-of-the-Series, with 553 runs) Younis felt his attack had “more variety” unlike the Indians, who took to the decider with three left-arm mediumpacers.
Talking to The Telegraph, Younis dedicated both his award and the terrific win to the memory of his brother, Mohammed Sharif Khan, who passed away some months ago. “Yeh sab unke naam hai... His influence was huge and he would have been delighted with what happened today...”
If Dravid went in the first over, deputy Virender Sehwag followed four balls later. There was no footwork and Asif had his first victim. V.V.S.Laxman again fell to a beauty from Asif, his middle-stump going for a toss. Next was Sachin Tendulkar’s turn to fall to the same bowler. The Kookaburra kept a bit low, but wasn’t unplayable.
Sachin failed in all three innings (the first in Faisalabad) that he took guard in this series.
At 71 for four, Yuvraj Singh joined former captain Sourav Ganguly. They revived hopes of a fight back, but Sourav fell on the first delivery after tea. Again, he departed in the 30s and, yet again, started the slide.
In innings No.1, Sourav and Yuvraj’s 81-run partnership had arrested the collapse. This afternoon, their 103-run stand couldn’t even delay the inevitable beyond a point. Yuvraj went on to score his second Test century (a fabulous 122) in Pakistan and left no one in doubt that if one has to play, Sourav would have to sit out.
“I’m a big supporter of Sourav... He was aggressive and he fought... I hope his innings holds him in good stead,” is what Younis had to say. Dravid, mind you, declined to comment on his predecessor ' “It’s a team game and I’m never going to discuss individuals at a Media conference... We’ll now have to look at picking the best batsman for each position...”
A strong indication that a specialist is going to partner Sehwag in the forthcoming series versus England at home. So, some more sleepless nights for Sourav. More pressure, too.
Interestingly, among others, Younis and his men were cheered by the legendary Jahangir Khan. Speaking exclusively, he said: “I hadn’t dropped in on the previous three days... I chose the right one!”
One learns Pakistan were behind by two overs and, so, each player will be fined 10 per cent of his match fee. Having been the captain, Younis has to cough up double that.