Indo-Pak series dominated by batsmen

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Winning a cricket series against Pakistan at home is always be a feel-good factor in Indian sport.

Updated: December 15, 2007 17:56 IST
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Winning a cricket series against Pakistan is a feel-good factor in Indian sport. And if it comes in a home series after 27 years and follows a 3-2 victory in the one-day international (ODI) series, it becomes doubly sweet.

The Test series was decided by the victory in the first Test at Delhi as India out-batted Pakistan in all three Tests. If only India's bowling had matched their batting, they could have made it 2-0 if not a clean sweep for a 3-0 win. However, their showing should keep them in good spirits ahead of a tough series against Australia.

While India boasts of a double, the Pakistanis can take heart from the drawn Tests in Kolkata and Bangalore, and also because they are running close in the ODIs. Frankly, the poor quality of pitches was no encouragement for the two teams.

The fact that India, despite scoring 600 plus runs in the last two Tests, could not force a victory only shows how slow and low the tracks were. Certainly not a good advertisement for Test cricket in an era where result-oriented Tests have become the norm and not an exception. The series was also hurt by the spate of injuries and illness in both sides.

Much of the credit for the Test series win must go to man-of-the-series Sourav Ganguly for recording the highest aggregate on either side -- 534 at an average of 89.00 -- Wasim Jaffer (378 at 63.00), captain Anil Kumble (18 wickets at 26.50) and Harbhajan Singh (10 wickets at 44.10) for their significant contributions.

The architects of the ODI series win were Yuvraj Singh (272 at 68.00), Sachin Tendulkar (259 at 51.80), Rudra Pratap Singh (six wickets), Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan (five wickets each).

The big difference between the two teams was that while Indians grabbed some of the opportunities that came their way, the Pakistanis failed to capitalise on theirs.

Kumble, taking over the reins from his state-mate Rahul Dravid, who quit after the tour of England, did well in his first series, though he invited some criticism on the issue of tactics. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, like Kumble, gave enough hints that he has leadership qualities while captaining in the one-dayers.

The star of the Test series was Ganguly, who not only made crucial contributions with the bat but also claimed four important wickets with his military medium-pace bowling. The left-hander also scored his maiden double century in the third and final match in Bangalore.

He also made up for the not-so-great form in the ODI series by scoring two centuries and one half-century.

Jaffer scored the only other double century of the Test series. His 202 in the first innings in Kolkata gave a chance to go for a win in the second Test, before Misbah and Younis snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Yuvraj was the other Indian batsmen in roaring form. His tally of 272 in the ODIs was second only to Mohammed Yousuf, who aggregated 282 at 94.33, including three half-centuries, to finish on the top of the heap.

Despite being adjudged the Man of the ODI Series, Yuvraj failed to find a berth in the first two Tests. As luck would have it, Tendulkar and Dhoni got injured before the third Test and Yuvraj and Irfan Pathan were drafted in the XI. Both left-handers made the most of the opportunity to hammer centuries. It was Yuvraj's third and Pathan's first in Tests.

For Pakistan, the freak injury to their captain Shoaib Malik, while playing soccer after the Delhi Test, and the reluctance of his deputy Younis Khan to stand in made things that much more difficult. Their bowling spearhead Shoaib Akhtar's hide-and-seek efforts did not help matters either. Yet, they stood up thanks to mainly to the individual brilliance of Misbah-ul-Haq with his determined batting in all three Tests.

Misbah showed remarkable temperament and his aggregate of 464 runs at 116.00, hitting two match-saving centuries, is a testimony to his resilience. If you add that to his 176 in the ODIs, it makes him the rightful heir to Inzamam-ul-Haq's No. 5 slot in the batting order.

Younis seems to relish batting against India. He was once again in tremendous form in both forms of the game, amassing 231 runs at 57.75 in four ODIs and scoring 260 at 52.00 in the three Tests.

Younis' century -- along with the maiden Test ton from Misbah -- saved Pakistan from a certain defeat in the second Test in Kolkata. Another player who came out well in the series was beleaguered wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal. He saved his Test place with a century in the Kolkata Test and it also covered up for his deficiencies behind the stumps.

Left-arm medium-pacer Sohail Tanvir was the best bowler in either side in the ODIs with eight wickets, while Danish Kaneria bore the brunt of the Indian onslaught but returned with 12 wickets.

Many of the former Pakistani cricketers found the killer instinct missing from their team in a series played in a cordial atmosphere. Maybe, the frequent meetings may have taken the cutting edge out of India-Pakistan cricket, but no one is complaining.

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