Sleight of two old hands


Ishant Sharma stands close to a foot taller than Kamran Akmal. But as the two squared-off in a war of words at the centre of the wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the disparity in their heights somehow seemed to have been balanced out. For, Akmal was in no mood to give even an inch, literally. He had gotten up on his toes to lock eyes with the towering Ishant, whose unruly mane covered his face.

The two parties were soon separated with both umpires, a number of Indian players and Shoaib Malik getting involved. The lid, though, had just been lifted.

With steam coming out of their ears, Ishant and Akmal had just sparked the India-Pakistan series into life. The cricket itself had been mainly attritional, with neither batting line-up having looked comfortable against the moving and bouncing ball. But Pakistan had just lost Mohammad Hafeez, for an inspirational 44-ball 61.

The 106-run partnership between the skipper and Shoaib Malik that looked poised to take the game completely away from India, had just been broken. Also, the umpires had just reversed a crucial decision after replays showed that Malik had been caught off Ishant's second bouncer in an over. With the visitors still requiring 14 off 15 deliveries, the pressure was truly on. The full-house at the Chinnaswamy had just found their voice again. And the pressure was finally beginning to show in both camps.

Fuelling fire

Ishant seemed to have come better off from the duel, as the Pakistan wicketkeeper swung widely at the next two deliveries in the over, leaving his team 14 away from their target of 134, and just two overs left.

Ashok Dinda, fresh from having been hit for a last-ball six last week, then kept his nerves in check and made up for the untoward ending against England in Mumbai with a perfect penultimate over. He kept the batsmen down to just four singles, and also got rid of the dangerous Akmal, sparking wild celebrations in the Indian camp with Ishant incidentally holding onto the catch at third man.

... contd.

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