HAROON SIDDIQUI - Pakistan had good record at the Eden Gardens against India and are a step away from winning the One-day series against the arch-rivals. Can Pakistan pace factory, including Junaid Khan, M Irfan and Umar Gul, keep Pakistan’s Eden Gardens record intact by winning the second One-day today (Thursday) to seal the ODI series fate against India in their own backyard.
If Pakistani bowlers restricted Sehwag, Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma, Gambhir and skipper Dhoni and deny them to post a big total and Pakistan batsmen played sensibly then green shirts surely win the One-day series.
Pacer M Irfan looked facing some fitness problem and coach Whatmore should look at him to remove his problem and enable him to bowl heart-out to get more pace and speed to trouble Indian batsmen. Pakistan team have to play like one unit and every player have to play his role in team’s victory.
Pakistan's pacer duo Junaid Khan (4-43) and M Irfan in the first ODI left hosts gasping for breath within the first 10 overs must maintain their momentum going to keep hosts at bay and help the visitors to clinch series against India. Junaid exploited the overcast conditions to destroy Indian top-order and bowled both the ways and rattled the defence of Sehwag, Kohli and Yuvraj to send them back to pavilion and also forced Rohit Sharma to edge an out-swinger in to hands of slip fielder Hefeez.
The seven-feet-one-inch-giant Irfan also played a crucial role in Junaid Khan's wicket tally and his consistent line and length helped Pakistan to exert more pressure on Indians as runs got hard to come by. Irfan, the tallest bowler in the sport, dismissed Gautam Gambhir with a nippy in-swinger.
The Eden Gardens has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan since the visitors played here for the first time in 1987. Despite Kris Srikkanth's 123, they beat India by two wickets while chasing 238 target in 40 overs. Rameez Raja and Younis Ahmed (58 each) were the men in-charge. In 1989, both teams met once again in the Nehru Cup league match and the result this time was even better as Pakistan won by 77 runs. The team followed this win with another, this time against West Indies in the same tournament. In fact, the only occasion when Pakistan lost Independence Cup final against Sri Lanka in 1997. The Sri Lankan total of 309 was just too much to chase. When India last played Pakistan here, the hosts were unable to change their dismal statistic, losing by six wicket in the BCCI Platinum Jubilee match.
The momentum presently is with Misbahul Haq as his team won the first match and victory in this match will seal the series fate in Pakistan favour. A win here would hand the trophy while put Indians under a lot of pressure.
On the other hand, Indian batsmen will have to read the swing of Junaid Khan and M Irfan to avoid a series defeat. India is facing Kohli's scare as the player got injured during the first game will miss the match. India will be under tremendous pressure and will also be looking for snatching series leveler to keep the series alive. Dhoni facing severe criticism from Indian media and legends for his captaincy skills but his unbeaten knock of 113 silenced their critics for the time being. If Pakistan keep their record intact at the Eden Gardens, the Indian skipper Dhoni's captaincy and place in the team will be at stake as the Indian media desired his replacement in the team and want either Gambhir or Kohali should be handed the reign of Indian team.
It is high time when Pakistan should go for second ODI match victory to make way for series whitewash against Indian team at their home soil.