CRICKET BONANZA IN PESHAWAR

It has been quite incomprehensive to see Test matches starting on weekends and an ODI being played on a working day

BY KHALID BUTT
Feb 13 - 19, 2006

The current Indian cricket tour of Pakistan has been creating new and some inexplicable traditions. For someone closely connected with the game in one way or other, it has been quite incomprehensive to see Test matches starting on weekends and an ODI being played on a working day. But then what can you expect from the management, which seems to hear nothing to any reasoning as if they were quite deaf? The world over you have a timetable for Test matches in which weekends are utilised to the best advantage. And so are the ODIs. But not so in Pakistan, for reasons unknown.

Inevitably, all eyes on Monday last were on Peshawar, where the first match of the ODI series was to be played. And what a game it turned out to be. Although in the end the shadowy Duckworth Lewis prevailed, but the result in favour of the host country was a fair verdict.

Indians had started in the whirlwind fashion even after early loss of their main striker, Sehwag. The rattling pace of scoring rate by their top order was maintained, and it once seemed they were heading for a total close to 400 or thereabout. But having crossed 300, India strangely collapsed to be all out for 328 with two deliveries short in the final over. It was a remarkable comeback by Pakistan team and their bowlers, who were without their spearhead Shoaib Akhtar.

Sachin Tendulkar, was back in form to reach his 39th ODI century and provide his side the necessary platform to reach a seemingly large total. Irfan Pathan promoted in batting order rattled up a scintilating knock.

It appeared to present quite a challenging task to the host team. But such is the current form of Pakistani batsmen that they made it look easy. Salman Butt who is currently on a roll, scored his third ODI century against the Indians.

First with his opening partner Kamran and then with Shoaib Malik he built the required platform. Pakistan with their depth in batting, having lost seven wickets, were only short of the target by 18 runs, with 18 balls left when the game was ended by umpires due to bad light. Applying the D/L formula Pakistan was declared the winner. Both Younis Khan and Naveed Rana, the unbeaten batsmen were well in sight of the wining target with 18 deliveries left to knock off the required runs.

After Karachi, Peshawar has given an ample proof of the great following the game has in these two cricket-crazy cities. Both cities being repeatedly shun by visiting teams on so-called 'security concern' have exposed how far wrong they have been about their assessment. Unlikely poor crowd attendance, despite doling out of free crickets at Lahore and Faisalabad, the stadiums drew full houses in Karachi and Peshawar. The enthusiasm and involvement of crowds including large percentage of females was a reassuring sign. It should now settle this security issue once for all. For these centres long being ruled out as pariahs the PCB management as well as the government take a firm stand to ensure the two cities are not unduly targetted by foreign teams any more for something which defies simple logic.

The cricket bonanza at Pakistan has also provided a fine start to the ODI series. Pakistan after their 1-0 win in the Test rubber, are now looking for a double. And Indians after narrowly missing out in Peshawar, should be looking to the remaining games for a comeback. So, one has quite an absorbing fare at hand, by the time, series reach Lahore, after the second game to be played next at Rawalpindi. It should compensate the local fans for what they missed out earlier in two killjoy-drawn games at Lahore and Faisalabad during the Test matches.