Mohali not a happy hunting ground for Pak

After India's convincing victory over Pakistan in the opening game at Guwahati on Monday, all the pressure will be on the touring side.

updated: November 08, 2007 07:46 IST
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The proximity of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium to Pakistan -- just a five-hour drive from the Attari-Wagah border -- is no reason for the neighbours to feel at home in the lush green ground here.

Given their last two appearances here and as many losses around the same time last year during the Champions Trophy and recent memories are going to haunt the Pakistan cricket team when they take on India in the second ODI here on Thursday in a day-night encounter.

Once they were bundled out by South Africa for just 89 runs --that score of 89 has the dubious distinction of being the lowest score by any cricket team on this ground.

After India's convincing victory over Pakistan in the opening game at Guwahati on Monday, all the pressure will be on the touring side to draw level in the five-ODI series.

That may be easier said than done. Pakistan has won only one of the five ODIs on this ground. The solitary success came against the Indians, but the comprehensive seven-wicket win on April 1, 1999, was more than eight years ago.

Surprisingly, that was the only time the two teams have met here. The Pakistanis have never won at Mohali since then.

Indians have fared better at Mohali, having won five of the seven games they have played here.

Though the Indians arrived here brimming with confidence after the Guwahati triumph, they would do well to be wary of the grassy pitch laid out by curator Daljeet Singh -- described by TV commentator and former cricketer Ravi Shastri as "the doctor of pitches in India".

"The white ball will move in the first few overs in both innings and opening batsmen will have to guard against it. If they are able to see through the first few overs, runs will come aplenty," Singh pointed out.

The curator is not wrong. Bowlers from all over the world -- Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa -- exploited the conditions during the Champions Trophy around this time last year. Only Indian bowlers could not get their act together and the hosts went down to Australia by six wickets.

Pakistan's pace attack led by Shoaib Akhtar could exploit the conditions better than the home bowlers.

India's frontline bowlers Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh and Irfan Pathan failed to impress at the Guwahati match and a better performance is expected from them here.

More important, the Indian batting must come good once again.

Local lad Yuvraj Singh, who has been among the runs for India in recent matches, would love to light up his home turf with some batting fireworks on Diwali eve.

With chilly mornings and evenings ushering in an early winter and the game being a day-night fixture, dew could prove a problem for the side bowling second. Moderate dew has been observed over the ground in the past week, but the curator insists there is no cause for worry.

"We are going to use the chemical spray Apsa-80 before the match starts. This will control the dew to a large extent. Also the new rules about the change of balls after the 35 overs will help," Singh said.

Despite being nearer home, Pakistan will have only a handful of supporters -- less than 200 -- rooting for them due to the strict visa conditions for this match for fans from across the border.

The Teams:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, S. Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik.

Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (captain), Younis Khan, Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Rehman and Rao Iftikhar Anjum.