India stay cool in cauldron

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The Independent Online
INDIA won what might have been the biggest and most highly charged match in their history here yesterday when they beat Pakistan, their co- hosts in the World Cup and their bitterest rivals, by 39 runs.

Somehow they managed to keep their heads in the hysterical atmosphere that surrounded the game, but it was a close thing. When Venkatesh Prasad bowled Aamir Sohail, the two visibly exchanged rude words and the umpires had to hand out stiff lectures. And when the crowd started to throw bottles at Salim Malik, the batsman - Ajay Jadeja - went over and made beseeching gestures to implore them to stop.

India won the toss, batted, and took few chances against an attack that was without Wasim Akram, whose side muscle could not have taken the strain. Sachin Tendulkar, who normally bats as if there were no tomorrow, for once decided to sniff the air before committing himself. It did not pay off: just when he appeared to be loosening up with a trademark whipped boundary through midwicket, he dragged one on to his stumps. The crowd, accustomed to a more protracted stay by their super-hero in this tournament, went crazy.

Sidhu - whose one-day record is better than Tendulkar's - pushed and clubbed his way to 93, but India were never exactly on top until a final surge. Waqar Younis, having bowled eight impressively hostile overs for 27, returned for his last two. They swung the match. Jadeja, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath whacked and clomped them for 40; the final five overs of the innings went for 63. Jadeja played what turned out to be the match- winning innings: 45 in 26 balls to carry India to 287.

It was an imposing target, on a day of such furious national tension. But Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail, who throughout the tournament have made batting look humiliatingly easy, set about their task as if they wanted to win with time to spare. The first 10 overs yielded 84 runs, and the most awful hush fell over Bangalore. Anwar drilled Kumble for six over midwicket and then, when he had both outfielders safely on the leg side, stepped back and swotted him past extra cover for four.

But after two sixes and five fours, Anwar went for another big one and was caught by Kumble (a Bangalore man) for 48. Sohail lashed a few more boundaries - including a spectacular swish for six over square leg, but fell slogging at Prasad.

The innings stalled after that. The first 15 overs had produced 113 runs; the next 15 cost only 46. Forty-five thousand Indians drummed and cheered every dot ball. But it was not quite over. Javed Miandad played himself in with exaggerated care, poking and tapping, and scored his first boundary - a sumptuous straight drive - after 70 minutes.

But little by little the target hove into view. When Azharuddin brought back Srinath, Latif hit him back over his head for six. Kumble had a go, and Latif dumped him into the crowd at mid-wicket.

But then it all ended fast. Latif gave a return catch to Kumble, Miandad was run out and that was that. The crowd set fire to their papers, off went the firecrackers and the final balls were played out in a strange orange glow. For India, at least, their World Cup runneth over.