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  1. 185

Dilshan steers Asia home

Asia XI 110 for 4 (Dilshan 47) beat Africa XI 109 for 8 (Bosman 52) by 6 wickets

It was bound to happen. An inexperienced bunch of Africans could only muster a below-par 109 for 8 and the Asians reached the target with four overs to spare. The Asian bowling was disciplined and the fielding, despite a lack of pre-match practice, sharp as they tightened the tourniquet after sending the novices to bat. Unsurprisingly, Loots Bosman, who has played for South Africa, was the only batsman to face more than 15 deliveries and he was left to watch helplessly as the Asians pooped the party even before it began.

When the time came to chase, Imran Nazir looked in a great hurry to catch the flight back home as he slashed and slogged two boundaries before heaving one to mid-off. Tamim Iqbal chose to settle down before unfurling a few trademark aerial drives over the off-side ring. There was one delicious on-the-up whack over mid-off against Nehemiah Odhiambo but he too fell going for the jugular. The crowd were getting restless.

They started to appeal for every delivery that hit the pad and every ball that went past the outside edge. The reason? They wanted to see Shahid Afridi bat. But Malik chose to be a killjoy. He sent in Tillekaratne Dilshan and then chose to bat himself. The broadcasters wouldn't have complained as that meant the match being prolonged and more adverts being squeezed in. Maybe the elements also shared their sentiment. Because moments after the winning hit, the rain clouds opened up and drenched the ground.

Not that the other batsmen weren't entertaining. Dilshan played two delectable paddle sweeps, rocked back twice to cut the spinners, Thandi Tshabalala and Hiren Varaiya, and sent a Keith Dabengwa floater to the cow corner. Malik, perhaps to appease the impatient crowd, slog-swept Tshabalala over deep midwicket for a six. And when Dilshan cut another one in the same over, it was all over.

The best of the African bowlers was Mornč Morkel, the tall fast bowler from South Africa. He got appreciable lift off the track and made the ball move away from the bat. He got one to rear at the throat of Ashraful, who could only fend it off in ungainly fashion - perhaps the only moment in the Asian innings when the Africans offered the promise of a contest.

In keeping in with the flavour of the night, the tamasha continued through the game. The DJ churned out some foot-tapping disco numbers, the big screen kept the sparse but enthusiastic crowd informed and Khaike Banaras wala, filled the air as the innings came to an end. Remember, it was all about having fun. As they say in this city of pubs ... simply enjoy maadi. If only Afridi had batted...

Earlier in the evening, Mashrafe Mortaza got bounce and movement off the virgin track, Sreesanth found some swing, albeit a touch wayward when he tried too hard, and Farvez Maharoof was always at the batsman. The combination was potent enough. Only Bosman survived. And he triggered a buzz around the arena in the slog-overs with three thunderous sixes. Two flew over long-on as Shahid Afridi bled in the 18th over. The best of them all came in the next over against Sreesanth. Bosman stood still to a full-pitched delivery and swung it over deep midwicket, into the midst of a delighted crowd.

Gulam Bodi, the only other African batsman that didn't look uncomfortable in the middle, played a few punch-drives and a sweetly timed flick off Sreesanth, before he fell trying to up the ante. Sreesanth got one to swing in full and Bodi, attempting another across-the-line whip, scooped it high in the air for Afridi to come under it at mid-on.

Tanmay Mishra, Kenya's bright hope, promised much when he flayed his first ball from Maharoof over cover. But he perished soon after when he charged down the track to Mortaza, only to top-edge to thirdman. That made it 40 for 3 in eight overs, and the wheels were starting to come off the axle. The middle-order then spontaneously combusted on arrival: Alex Obanda, Keith Dabengwa and Nehemiah Odhiambo faced just 23 balls among them.

Shoaib Malik rang the changes well. He took Sreesanth out after three overs, brought in the more accurate Maharoof and the parsimonious Abdul Razzak, the left-arm spinner from Bangladesh, while also giving crowd favourite Afridi a go.

Meanwhile, keeping in with the flavour of the night, the tamasha continued through the game. The DJ churned out some foot-tapping disco numbers, the big screen kept the sparse but enthusiastic crowd informed and Khaike Banaras wala, a popular Amitabh Bachchan number later made even more popular by Shahrukh Khan, filled the air as the innings came to an end. Remember, it was all about having fun. As they say in this city of pubs ... simply enjoy maadi. If only Afridi had batted...

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