Dhoni guides India to 308/7 against Pakistan(Lead)

July 2nd, 2008 - 9:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, July 2 (IANS) Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front with a workman-like 76 to help his side post a sizeable total of 308 for the loss of seven wickets in a crucial Asia Cup game against Pakistan here at the National Stadium Wednesday. Needing to beat to confirm a place in Sunday’s final against Sri Lanka, India benefited from valuable contributions from Rohit Sharma (58), Virender Sehwag (49), Yuvraj Singh (37) and Gautam Gambhir (35) to set up a challenging target for Pakistan, who have to win this match to stay alive in the six-nation contest.

But it was Dhoni’s crafty batting that enabled the Indians to score a decent total. The captain was cool as a cucumber, playing the lead role in a couple of good partnerships with Sharma and Irfan Pathan, who hit an unbeaten 38 off 25 balls with four fours.

It was Dhoni’s 112-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Sharma that really kept the Indians in the game after losing their top four men for 129 in the 19th over. Dhoni faced 96 balls, hitting four of them to the fence. Rao Iftikhar was the best Pakistani bowler with 3/51 while Saeed Ajmal made a decent debut finishing with 1/47 in ten overs. Sohail Tanvir was despatched to all parts of the ground and ended with dismal figures of 1/87.

Earlier, Pakistan suffered twin blows before the start of the match when their captain Shoaib Malik was ruled out because of acute dehydration and stand-in skipper Misbah-ul-Haq lost the toss.

Dhoni had no hesitation in opting to bat and his side galloped to 88 in 62 balls with Sehwag and Gambhir looking in fine nick. Sehwag was at his ruthless best, hitting boundaries almost at will.

But Pakistan pacers Abdul Rauf, playing in only his second one-day international, and Anjum managed some life from the seemingly lifeless track to put India on the back foot by striking thrice within a space of nine balls.

Anjum sent back Gambhir in the 11th over and then Rauf struck twice in the next over, scalping Sehwag and Raina to bring India to 91/3 in 12 overs. Sehwag faced 33 balls for his 49 that included six fours and two sixers. Yuvraj looked at his brilliant best with a brief cameo of 37 off 32 balls, hitting some exquisite fours and hoisting a magnificent sixer off Tanvir in the process.

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