Friday, June 20, 2008

Kitply Cup ’08. Bangladesh-India-Pakistan, a review.

The sub-continental neighbours – India, Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh played for the Kitply Cup at Mirpur in early June. Pakistan emerged champions, but with some harsh efforts.

The opening game between Bangladesh and Pakistan was reduced to a 40 over encounter. Pakistan, riding on Salman Butt’s form, galloped well from the start. 250 plus was on the cards, but the Bangladeshi spinners did well to keep the Pakistan total to less than 240. Comeback man, Khalid Mashud did well to capture 3 wickets. the chase started slow and steadily, but a partnership at the top was coming. But, soon, the top and middle order was rattled. Md Ashraful, very unlikely of himself, stayed at crease till the end to complete an unbeaten half-century at a very poor strike rate, given the situation and his characteristics as a batsman. The bowlers tightened their line and Afridi was very economical and venomous with the ball. Pakistan had a comfortable victory in the end.

Next game, the much awaited clash between India and Pakistan took place at Mirpur. The Indians, batting first were off to a flier with both the Delhi openers exploding with great footwork and strokeplay all over the park. 100 runs parntnership was raised in no time, with bowlers still trying to find their line and length right, and Pakistan already upset by ‘keeper Akmal’s integrity claiming Sehwag’s catch when he had put it down. After the fall of the openers, the middle order took some time settling in, took too much time to settle in, I say. What could’ve been capitalized on to make 350+ was finally to be a target of 330, low by no means, though. The Pakistan chase was jolted time and again by the young Indian pacer, Praveen Kumar, who actually hails from a family of wrestlers. He sure did wrestle some top order batsmen down. A good catch by Rohit Sharma in short-point to dismiss Butt was a scene worth watching dozen times an hour! The Pakistanis had paced their innings well, but had lost a lot of wickets in the process. Piyush Chawla chipped in with a few wickets for himself. In the end, India beat Pakistan by 140 runs, the best margin for India in a victory over Pakistan in ODIs.

The last league match was India facing off against Bangladesh. Bangladesh opted to bat first, but soon. Their top order fell to Indian opening bowlers, Praveen and Rudra Pratap Singh, who made a comeback in this match. The Bangladeshis started to stabilize their innings with Ashraful and Rakibul Hassan, who almost got his century. With a few small partnerships, Bangladesh managed to put on 222. the Indian batting once again kicked off in great fashion. This time, Sehwag outperformed Gambhir in the initial stages to race to his 50, but then, he threw away his wicket. Gambhir, built his innings well and accelerated it in time to reach his century. An easy victory for India, by seven wickets.

So, it was a roaring stadium for the finals, India vs Pakistan. Pakistan had to find solutions for their dismal performance against India in the league matches and then apply themselves for the finals. Pakistan electing to bat first, were more cautious this time, and the partnerships were coming well. Akmal played his part ell at the top of the order with Butt. After his dismissal, came in Younis Khan and straight away proved that class doesn’t die, with a picturesque front foot cover drive for a boundary. Applause came in from all directions. The 2nd wicket stand was pacing very slowly. At the halfway mark, the two batsmen in the middle had just started to feel comfortable to play their strokes freely. They had nearly all their wickets in hand were ready to accelerate up. Piyush Chawla had to face the whip initially, and later on all those who filled in for the 10 overs to be compensated by part-timers. Both Younis and Butt completed their centuries, and Pakistan managed a comfortable 315. The chase faltered this time as Sehwag fell early and as coach Gary Kirsten feared, plan B had to be used now. But, things were looking not so good as Rohit Sharma too followed suit. Yuvraj and Gambhir played well, but Yuvraj fell before he could take the pressure to the opposition. Yusuf Pathan was sent higher up the order, after showing some of his form carried from the IPL, he gave away his wicket, which made Gambhir to do the chasing more, by himself. The pressure soon consumed him and Raina. So, it was now, left to captain Dhoni and the tail to wag. Much they did try, but, Pakistani bowlers did have their share of excitement with regular wickets. In the end, Dhoni’s heroics weren’t enough, as India were bowled out for 290. Not a bad chase, in the end. But, winners, deservingly, Pakistan. Butt was awarded the Man-of-the-Series award for his superb form in the series.

It was a very good preparation for the teams who will now be eyeing the Asia Cup, starting 4th week of June in Pakistan. SriLanka will join the three teams. Hong-Kong and the UAE will also feature in the 6-team tournament. This tournament will test the consistency of the teams, where they may be facing off against deserving and competitive opponents, maybe even twice. Its going to be a great Asia Cup, once again.
Photo: Cricinfo

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