Hundreds of thousands of cricket fans poured onto streets across India for midnight celebrations early yesterday after their team beat longtime rival Pakistan in their first series of matches. \nFans exploded firecrackers, beat drums, danced and handed out candies after India claimed a 40-run win Wednesday night to clinch the one-day series 3-2. \n"It's a big win, I believe we haven't won a series here [in Pakistan] since India's first tour in 1954," a beaming Indian captain Saurav Ganguly said in the Pakistani city of Lahore. \n"I prayed for my son and India's victory," said Mehboob Pathan, father of India's young pace bowler Irfan Pathan, who dismissed three top Pakistani batsmen to set India on course for victory. \nMehboob Pathan is a Muslim cleric in the western Indian city of Vadodra. \nDespite their rivalry, rooted in decades of mistrust and focused on the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, diplomatic relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have improved dramatically in recent months. Indian cricket fans visiting Pakistan have been warmly welcomed and there have been no reported problems. \nOn both sides of the border, hopes have been running high that India's first cricket tour of Pakistan in 14 years -- set to last more than a month -- will help reinforce the tentative moves aimed at ending years of bitterness. \nSecurity concerns threatened to stop the Indian tour until India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee pushed for it to go ahead. \nThe Indian team played the tour opener at Karachi, a Pakistani city that has seen a string of terrorists attacks against foreigners and minority Christians in recent years. \nVajpayee watched Wednesday's Indian victory on television. "If 11 players can do it, there is no reason why more than 1 billion people [of India] can't achieve what they desire," he said in footage aired on Indian television. \n"The victory has brought smiles on the faces of people," said India's President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. \nThe one-dayers will be followed by three test matches, each of which can last up to five days. \nthe match \nIndia recorded its first one-day series win in Pakistan on Wednesday with a 40-run win in the fifth and deciding one-day international to clinch the series 3-2. \nAfter Vangipurappu Laxman scored his first hundred against Pakistan to lead a strong Indian innings of 293 for seven, left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan (3-29) mopped up the Pakistan top order with three quick wickets as the hosts were dismissed for 253 in 47.5 overs. \nIt was India's first one-day series win in Pakistan in six attempts since the rival nations first played a limited overs match on Pakistan soil in the 1978-1979 season. \n"Over the last year this Indian team has worked very hard. It's fantastic to win in Pakistan, it's a phenomenal effort," Indian captain Sourav Ganguly said. \nMoin Khan's effort of 72 runs was not enough to see his side through after Pakistan was reduced to 96 for six in 24 overs. Khan added 99 runs with Shoaib Malik (65) and added 53 runs with number 10 batsman Mohammed Sami (23) before he was bowled by Laxmipathy Balaji (3-62) in the 48th over. \nHowever, the Indian team got a setback when Ganguly was carried off the field on a stretcher after injuring his back in the 10th over with Pakistan struggling at 40 for three. \nFielding at mid-off, Ganguly dived to stop Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq's drive off seamer Laxmipathy Balaji, but he stayed down writhing in pain. \nThe Indian skipper may have aggravated the back injury that kept him out of some one-dayers against the West Indies in 2002. The Indian players surrounded their captain when he fell and physiotherapist Andrew Leipus rushed on the field to attend to him. \nInzamam made 38 before Sachin Tendulkar celebrated his 100th catch in his 333rd one-day international with a spectacular running save inches inside the ropes at long off to dismiss the Pakistani skipper and reduce the home team to 87 for five. \n"The target was not tall, but we lost quick wickets in the start which made the difference," Inzamam said. \n"But I must admit the Indian bowlers bowled very well," he added. \nEarlier, man of the match Laxman scored his sixth limited-overs century and the first against Pakistan to lead India to 293 for seven off its 50 overs with some 2,500 Indian supporters among the strong 21,000 home team fans cheering him on from the stands of Gaddafi Stadium. \nIt was the same target which India successfully chased last Sunday under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium to level the series 2-2. \nLaxman, dropped on 52, made 107 off 104 balls before he top edged and was caught by Sami in the 46th over after hitting 11 attractive boundaries on both sides of the wicket. \nBalaji hit speedster Shoaib Akhtar for the only six of the Indian innings. But Akhtar bowled an impressive 10 overs in three spells. He didn't bowl a single wide or no-ball and conceded 47 runs for the wicket of Ganguly. \nVirender Sehwag hit four boundaries in his short burst of 20 runs off 22 balls, while Tendulkar was shaping up well as he hit seven fours in his 37 runs. But both edged to wicketkeeper Moin Khan in an attempt to play extravagant strokes. \nGanguly (45) and Laxman put on 92 runs off 111 deliveries and consolidated midway through the innings as Pakistan bowlers kept a good line and length. \nGanguly was snapped up at the wicket by Khan as the Indian captain got a big edge when he attempted to guide the ball through third man. \nRahul Dravid and Yuvraj also fell cheaply in order to raise the scoring tempo. Sami grabbed three wickets for 63 runs while lanky seam bowler Shabbir Ahmed chipped in with two for 56. \nThe three-test series -- first ever on Pakistan soil between the two archrivals in 14 years -- begins in Multan on March 28.
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LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational