Karachi's epic lives up to the great occasion

India and Pakistan renew relations in style
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The Independent Online

The occasion demanded something special and got it with knobs on. India beat Pakistan yesterday by five runs in an exhilarating contest that yielded the largest combined score in the history of one-day internationals.

The occasion demanded something special and got it with knobs on. India beat Pakistan yesterday by five runs in an exhilarating contest that yielded the largest combined score in the history of one-day internationals.

The batting from both sides was sumptuous and brutal but the poor, put upon bowlers kept lifting themselves off the floor and coming back for more. Had Moin Khan managed to hit a six, instead of being caught, off the final ball the shot would have rung round the world and been imperishable.

As it is Pakistan, had to settle for making the highest second innings score in 2,112 limited overs internationals and their captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq justifiably being named man of the match for a century of consummate flair and calm.

The two countries were resuming normal cricketing relations - and therefore much, much more - after a period of 14 years. During that time, the Indian government had steadfastly refused to allow their team to meet the bitter rivals over the border.

There was one brief visit for three one-day matches in 1997, which helped to mark Pakistan's golden jubilee celebrations, but otherwise, nothing, except an endless litany of meaningless matches in places like Toronto. The continuing dispute over the territory of Kashmir had grown to such a level that the repercussions have frequently been in danger of being felt far beyond the cricket field.

But yesterday's match in Karachi - to call it a sell-out is woefully to underestimate its appeal - marked a watershed. It was the inaugural game of a full Indian tour that will include five one-dayers, three Test matches and unprecedented security for the players. The sense of anticipation it engendered was comfortably fulfilled.

India were asked to bat and made a breathtaking start. After five overs they were 41, after 10 they were 79 and after 11 they were 103. This onslaught was characteristicallyled by Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. They both took advantage of bowling from Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami that was impressive on speed, but less so on direction. The result was a series of wides, no balls and loose balls that Sehwag in particular seized on. His cutting and cover driving lacerated the field.

His 79 from 57 balls was followed by a gem of an innings by Rahul Dravid, who provides the unfussy ballast for India. There were only eight fours in his 99, yet it took only 103 balls. India's 349 for seven was aided by 38 extras (and 30 extra balls), yet at one point 400 was a distinct prospect.

Bayed on by a crowd which was throughout at fever pitch, Pakistan did not lose their nerve when they were reduced to 34 for 2.

Gradually, Pakistan's captain imposed himself, mostly with clinical placement. His use of his feet was exemplary. With eight overs left, he was moulding an epic victory when he edged Murali Kartik's left-arm spin behind. Dravid, took the catch.

Pakistan maintained the chase, but with 10 wanted from seven balls Shoaib Malik attempted to hoist a straight six. Mohammad Kaif and Lakshmipathy Balaji almost collided but Kaif held his nerve and the catch. The greatest cricketing rivalry is back where it belongs.

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