Cricinfo: Bangladesh tri-series 2008

Final: India v Pakistan at Dhaka (SBNS) - Jun 14, 2008

Butt cracks India's bowlers yet again

Salman Butt

Pakistan were the team under pressure heading into the final against India. Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, had criticised the team after their 140-run loss to India, but he was witness to two magnificent centuries as Pakistan turned the tables with a 25-run win in Mirpur.

The men in the limelight were Salman Butt and Younis Khan. Butt had come into this tournament with a pile of runs against Bangladesh, but a second failure in a row against India could have led to many a fool labelling him a minnow-basher.

What the fools would have overlooked is his record against India, and his unbeaten 129 in Mirpur reinforced his ability to rise against the traditional arch-rivals: this was his fifth ODI century against India – the only other batsman with five ODI centuries in India-Pakistan matches is Sachin Tendulkar, out of 46 additional innings that is.

In an era of slam-bang cricket, Pakistan reverted to a strategy straight out of the early 1990s: win the toss, bat, see off the new ball, keep wickets, accelerate and launch a big score. From 75 for 1 in the 20th over, on a pitch where the ball appeared to be stopping on the batsmen, they soared to 315

The pitch wasn't conducive to strokeplay early on but both Butt and fellow centurion Younis Khan bided their time through the Powerplays. The midwicket area was peppered he never let go of a chance to glide the ball behind square. India tried eight bowlers but there was little joy to be had once the shine wore off. The duo’s efforts ensured that 240 runs were plundered in the last 30 overs and set India a forbidding target.

While Younis nudged and glided, Butt punched and slapped. He creamed some delectable cover drives and showed the capacity to loft the spinners over wide long-on. The wide ones were slashed towards third man and he showed the ability to rotate the strike with ease. They made it a point to get a four in each over, mostly early on, and scurry singles once the pressure was released. A flick to midwicket allowed Butt to get his century, before he celebrated with a splendid slog-sweep off Piyush Chawla, one that soared over midwicket.

There was another nonchalant loft over wide long-on for six and an edge through third man off Chawla as he raced to 129 before retiring hurt due to cramps. He finished the tournament with 208 runs, the second-highest run scorer, and was deservedly named Player of the Tournament for his efforts.

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