When a team is 3-1 up in a five match series and has scored all its victories fairly convincingly, it requires a certain bloody-minded lust for victory to push the team to win the fourth game in a row, the likes of which is seen in few aside of Australia. The Indians forsook nearly half their side, going in without Ganguly, Harbhajan, Zaheer and R.P.Singh, being replaced by Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Sreesanth and Murali Kartik. But given that there was no better time to warm the young players to the international stage it was a fair bargain, although it resulted in a loss by 31 runs.
Pakistan won the game in broadly three areas. With the Indians showing clearly over their past 10 ODI games that what bothered them most was chasing big 300+ scores, that was all that was left for Pakistan to try. What they were missing through the series, despite fine individual efforts by Butt, Yousuf and Younis Khan were some match-winning partnerships, and they got one today with Malik (89) and Yousuf (74) putting together 168 for the 4th wicket. This, a couple of useful 30's and the Indian bowlers giving Pakistan nearly the equivalent of an extra batsmen with 29 extras helped take them to 306.
The 4th and 5th bowlers, India's primary run-stoppers in the previous two games, came unstuck today with Sehwag and Yuvraj going for 73 runs in their 10 overs. This, coupled with Kartik also going for over 6 an over, and none of the three frontline seamers getting regular wickets marked India's inadequacies with the ball.
The next two key areas that swung the game in Pakistan's favour were Pakistan's bowling with the new ball, and the soaking up of the runs in the middle overs. Tanvir's three early strikes (4 for 53 off 9.5 overs) meant that for once, Pakistan weren't playing catch up after either of the two Indian openers along with batsmen 3 and 4 had got them off to a good start, and at 62 for 4, it was India who were doing backpeddaling.
Afridi was Pakistan's key strength in their series against South Africa, but had turned into one of their biggest liabilities, not firing with the bat and leaking a deluge of runs with the ball. The personnel changes and Malik's decision to bowl himself in the middle overs were the key factors that helped stifle the Indian batting line up. This, when combined with the slowly mounting pressure of chasing 300, led to India finally ending their innings at 275 in 49.5 overs, after painstakingly trudging through the final overs where the required run rate rose from 12 to 18 to eventually six-a-ball in the final over.
Despite being filled with runs, this wasn't a game that came anywhere close to being as exciting as several India-Pakistan games have been in the past. But this is pretty much what makes it fit in as an appropriate end to a luke-warm series whose chief selling point has been that it had a little consolation for everybody.