Third ODI: Thrilling contest on cards

Kanpur, November 10:

Cricket fans can expect an extended Diwali as a cracker of a contest is on the cards between India and Pakistan in the third One-day International (ODI) here on Sunday. The series is levelled 1-1.

As international cricket returns to the historic Green Park Stadium after two years and seven months, fans can look forward to see fireworks in the five-match series. The last international match played at this venue, one of the oldest in India, was also an India-Pakistan ODI.

On April 15, 2005, Shahid Afridi — who cracked an unbeaten 14-ball 29 in the second ODI in Mohali on Thursday to help Pakistan to a win — had smashed the world’s second fastest century to catapult his team to an easy victory.

The other ominous sign for India is bogeyman Younis Khan’s continued fine form. The Pakistan vice-captain hammered 117 off 110 balls in Mohali to play the lead role in snatching the win from a hopeless position. Then, Misbah-ul-Haq also continues to pose problems for India. He scored 49 off 44 balls to ensure that Younis’ efforts did not go in vain.

India too have many positives to look up to despite the defeat and to gain confidence, mainly from the performance of the batsmen who put up a total of 321 in Mohali. Sachin Tendulkar’s continued good form augurs well along with that of Gautam Gambhir’s. Although Tendulkar failed to register his 42nd century, his 91-ball 99 will hopefully propel him to do better in Kanpur.

Extending his Twenty20 form to ODI, Gambhir cracked 44 in the first match in Guwahati and followed it up with a 68-ball 57 in Mohali. The left-hander is enjoying the form of his life and he will be the batsman Shoaib Malik’s bowling attack would be most wary of, besides Tendulkar.

Another left-hander who is equally threatening for Pakistan is Yuvraj Singh. He has played knocks of 58 and 34 in the two ODIs and on his day could tear apart a bowling attack that is without injured speedster Mohammed Asif.

But the other Pakistani bowlers, including pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, would try to overcome the absence of Asif, who could still join the team for the three-match Test series starting on November 22. Akhtar bowled a good spell on Thursday to become the only bowler to snare three wickets in Mohali.

The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led home side would also draw confidence from the track record of Green Park Stadium. India have won six of the nine matches played at this venue, situated close to river Ganga, while Pakistan won the solitary ODI they played in 2005.

India’s two top scorers in the previous match against Pakistan in Kanpur will, however, be absent this time around as they are out of the team. Rahul Dravid, the then captain, had scored 86 and Mohammed Kaif 88-ball 78 in 2005.