Younis special seals Pakistan triumph in crunch game (Lead, With comments)

July 3rd, 2008 - 1:54 am ICT by IANS  

By K. Hussain
Karachi, July 3 (IANS) Pakistan remained in contention for a place in Sunday’s Asia Cup final after thrashing India by eight wickets in a Super-Four game at the National Stadium here Wednesday thanks to a splendid ton by Younis Khan. Younis hit an unbeaten 123 - his second century against India in three games - as Pakistan cruised to a seemingly tough victory target of 309 with 4.3 overs to spare.

The Mardan-born batsman got excellent support from stand-in captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who scored an unbeaten 70 to ensure that Pakistan remain alive in the six-nation contest.

Pakistan’s job, however, is still half-done as they will have to pray that Sri Lanka beat India Thursday and then go on to beat Bangladesh in their last league game on July 4.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni later said that his side was comprehensively beaten in all departments of the game by a resurgent Pakistan. “Pakistan were in a must-win situation and played really well today,” he said.

Younis and Misbah shared an unbeaten stand of 188 for the third wicket after openers Nasir Jamshed and Salman Butt gave Pakistan a solid platform. The two put 65 off 40 balls before Butt fell for 35 after attempting a suicidal second run. Nasir hit a quickfire 53 off 43 balls before retiring hurt.

But Younis and Misbah made it sure that Pakistan ease their way to victory with some eye-catching shot-making. Younis faced 117 balls and hit 11 fours and a huge sixer in his brilliant knock. Misbah took just 62 balls for his 70 that was punctuated by seven fours and a six.

Earlier, Dhoni led from the front with a workman-like 76 to help his side post a sizeable total of 308-7 after winning the toss.

Needing to beat to confirm a place in Sunday’s final against Sri Lanka, India benefitted 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.

But it was Dhoni’s crafty batting that enabled the Indians to score a decent total. The captain was cool as a cuccumber, 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 10 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 later stand-in skipper Misbah-ul-Haq lost the toss.

Dhoni had no hesitation in opting to bat and soon 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 ODI, and Rao Iftikhar Anjum managed some life from the seemingly lifeless track to put India on the back foot by striking three times within a space of nine balls.

Rao sent back Gambhir (35) in the 11th over and then Rauf struck twice in the next over, scalping Virender 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 Singh 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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