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Malik drives Pakistan to victory

MS Dhoni & Shoaib Malik

MS Dhoni looks on as Shoaib Malik races to a superb century. He made 126 off 128 deliveries to set up a 54-run victory

A classy century from Shoaib Malik helped Pakistan triumph in the battle of Asia’s cricket giants with a 54-run ICC Champions Trophy victory over India at Supersport Park.

The all-rounder made 128 in a 206-run partnership with Mohammad Yousuf, who contributed with 88 to help set a tournament record for any wicket and help set India a daunting 303 for victory.

In reply, India were well ahead of the asking rate for at least 35 overs thanks to half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, but the loss of regular wickets undermined their chase. They were bowled for 248 with 5.1 overs unused.

After winning the toss and electing to bat, Pakistan survived an early scare when Imran Nazir was almost run out at the non-strikers end while stealing a quick single off Ashish Nehra – Suresh Raina putting his throw from the covers inches wide.

However, the batsman survived and went on to blast 20 from just 17 balls before he top-edged the same paceman and was snapped up by Harbhajan Singh back-pedalling from mid-on.

The 50 was raised in 43 deliveries, but Kamran Akmal then unnecessarily dragged on a drive from Nehra, leaving his side at 53 for two in the ninth over.

Malik and Younus Khan found scoring almost impossible thereafter and it told with the loss of the captain for 20 as was drawn into an edge on the front foot by RP Singh with MS Dhoni doing the rest.

But Yousuf joined Malik as the pair began to slowly rebuild. They brought up the 50 partnership from 72 balls, followed by the century stand in 119 balls.

Both also reached their fifties shortly after – Yousuf from 55 balls and Malik off 81 – as they refused to give the India bowlers any respite.

They crossed 150 as a pair in 156 balls, before Malik brought up his seventh one-day hundred from 108 balls with a neat cut shot off Harbhajan to third man boundary.

After bringing up the 200-run fourth-wicket partnership, Yusuf was bowled for 87 by Nehra as he attempted to cut, and was followed quickly by Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal.

Mohammad Aamer

17-year-old Mohammad Aamer wheels away after picking up the wicket of Yusuf Pathan as Pakistan cruise home

Malik’s 126-ball knock eventually came to an end in the penultimate over when he lifted Harbhajan to Yusuf Pathan at long-on as Pakistan posted 302 for nine. Ashish Nehra was the pick of India’s bowlers with 4-55.

India were dealt an early blow in response, losing Sachin Tendulkar, the veteran batsman nicking Mohammad Aamer to Kamran Akmal on the walk for only eight.

His opening partner Gambhir steadied the ship, though, and together with Dravid brought up the half-century stand and his own fifty from 36 balls golf-style six over the midwicket fence.

But he unnecessarily stepped out of his crease looking for a single and was run out courtesy of an excellent direct hit from Younus fielding at mid-off when well placed on 57.

Afridi, who eventually ended with 2-39, was then introduced into the attack and Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain struck two telling blows in his first three overs. He sent back Virat Kohli, who needlessy holed out to long-off, and captain Dhoni plumb lbw to reduce India to 133 for four in the 24th over.

Dravid continued to anchor the innings with his fifty brought up in 74 balls and, together with Raina, put on 72 in just under 11 overs to keep their side in the mix.

Saeed Ajmal finally broke the partnership when he trapped Raina lbw for 46 with a quicker, fuller ball and, needing 98 from the final 90 balls, Gary Kirsten’s men wilted under pressure.

Another mix-up between Harbhajan and Dravid, who lost his wicket in the process, summed up their night.