In Vain: Saeed Ajmal's 5/24 was in vain as Pakistan collapsed in pursuit of 167.
Scorecard | Selection issues | Misbah's advice
NEW DELHI: A lively performance in the field helped India save themselves the embarrassment of a first whitewash against Pakistan at the Feroze Shah Kotla, on Sunday. Trailing 0-2 in the series and having set a paltry target of 168 for the visiting team, India looked set to be at the receiving end of a clean sweep when Pakistan beat them at their own game of collapsing from a strong position. Misbah ul Haq's side were coasting on 113/3 before imploding under the relentless pressure that India's sharp fielding imposed on them, eventually losing by 10 runs in the third and final ODI.
With Pakistan nine down and requiring 23 off the last two overs, Ishant Sharma strove valiantly to lose the match in the 49th over. He conceded two boundaries to the injured Mohammad Hafeez, who had come down the order, and also bowled a no-ball for height. But with 11 needed Hafeez hit the lanky fast bowler straight to Yuvraj Singh at midwicket, a ball after Ishant had fumbled a possible run out of Mohammad Irfan. It was a worrisome batting display yet again by India, but the bowler's shone bright. Young Shami Ahmed racked up four maidens on debut, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar rocked with early strikes, R. Ashwin dislodged the stubborn Misbah ul Haq, and even Ravindra Jadeja bowled with marked parsimony.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's swing had Pakistan in a tangle once again when they began their chase of 167. The young opening fast bowler bowled his full quota on the trot, reducing Pakistan to 14/2 within the first Powerplay. He received good support from the debutant Shami Ahmed, who began with two maidens and hit a relentless length from the get-go. The breakthrough came when Kamran Akmal - promoted to open - was beaten and struck in front by one that swung in from outside off. Runs were rather hard to come by, and India fielded brilliantly, as Younis Khan became Bhuvaneshwar's second victim when he was bowled going for an off-side drive.
India had to wait until the introduction of spin for the third wicket - the in-form Nasir Jamshed's. R. Ashwin removed the left-handed opener immediately after he had punched a boundary off him. Jamshed went for the sweep against a ball that went straight on and was adjudged leg-before. Misbah was dropped by Dhoni when he had scored 27: a sharp chance off Ravindra Jadeja that screamed off the outside edge. The skipper and Umar Akmal had added 52 when Misbah was eventually dismissed, guiding Ashwin into the hands of Ajinkya Rahane at leg slip.
Pakistan lost two more quickly in the Batting Powerplay. Shoaib Malik was trapped in front by Ishant Sharma and Umar Akmal was stumped off Jadeja. The visitors were were 125/6 in the 40th over, needing 43 runs to win in 64 balls. Mohammad Hafeez had slipped down the order on account of the painful blow he had been struck on the hand by MS Dhoni's shot in the first innings. The batsman came out after the fall of Malik's wicket and was dropped on 7 by Rahane - again at leg slip - as he botched a sweep against Ashwin.
Ashwin almost had Gul when a carrom ball rapped him on the pads, but the umpire turned down the loud appeal in which all close-in fielders had joined. Twenty four were required in as many balls when Ishant returned for his third spell. Gul cracked under pressure and holed out to long on. Shami Ahmed turned in a wicket maiden next, getting rid of Saeed Ajmal and also watching Junaid Khan's foolish run out in the same over. Pakistan were nine down, with 23 needed in the last two overs when Ishant came on for the pivotal penultimate over. But even he couldn't contrive to lose from there.
Dhoni elected to bat on a chilly Delhi morning as India opted for Rahane and debutant Bengal fast bowler Shami instead of Virender Sehwag and Ashok Dinda. Rahane's return to the side wasn't pleasant and ended when he edged the hulking Mohammad Irfan to the wicket-keeper. Irfan struck again when Gautam Gambhir chased a wide into the hands of point. Virat Kohli was out to Junaid Khan - closing the bat to a length ball and top-edging to second slip - as India slid to 37/3. The two Pakistan left arm pacers bowled in tandem for 14 overs, with Junaid conceding just 17 in nine overs. Umar Gul came on as first change and was massacred for 18 by Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina in one over.
The left-hander looked comfortable until off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez bowled him with a beauty - a sharp turner that rattled the stumps. India failed to recover from the blow. Raina (31) clouted a six off Hafeez and began structuring another revival with Dhoni. But Saeed Ajmal took him and the promoted Ashwin out on successive deliveries to have the home team back on the mat again. Dhoni's wicket proved crucial. In the first over of the batting Powerplay, the India captain cut Gul straight to point, taking India down to 131/7. Hafeez was struck a vicious blow on the hand when Dhoni's full-blooded shot hit him. He left the field for treatment.
Ajmal cleans up
India's tail did not wag against Ajmal. Bhuvaneshwar was trapped in front by the doosra. Ishant drove tamely back to bowler, who caught it on second attempt for his fourth wicket. Jadeja clouted sixes off Gul and Ajmal but was out trying to hit the off-spinner out of the stadium. Ajmal finished with 5/24, his best ODI figures and the fifth-best by a Pakistani against India. Unfortunately for him, he had to end up on the losing side.