Pakistan set for mammoth total

If you thought the strip Lahore was a ridiculously dead wicket, providing no assistance whatsoever for the bowlers, Faisalabad is hardly any better. It is probably as unlikely to yield a result, unless the bowlers bowl exceptionally well and to go with, the batsmen play horrendous shots. What went down in Day 1 of this second Test match between Pakistan and India is a sign of the likely run-riot that is likely to come in the following days.

Pakistan won the toss again and, without any surprises, decided to bat first. There was a buzz even before the players took field, for both sides announced some controversial changes. For Pakistan, Rana Navel-ul-Hasan was left out for Mohammad Asif, playing only in his second Test, despite enterprising performances from the latter in the recent past. On the visitors’ side of events, debutant RP Singh made his way into the XI for Ajit Agarkar; although, the major change was that was chucking Sourav Ganguly out for Zaheer Khan.

The day’s play up until the end of the second session was sort of a hodgepodge in terms of who gets to be on top. Just when it seemed Pakistan was running away with it, India came back by picking up a couple of wickets in succession, twice. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi took the control away though with some sensibly positive batting in the final session, to put Pakistan in a commanding position.

The Pakistani openers, Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik, got off to a steady start. Irfan Pathan hardly troubled them, and they swiftly reached 47 before the first wicket fell. Malik left his bat in the air as a short ball from RP Singh caught the edge, and went off in the direction of the Indian skipper Rahul Darvid. Butt followed within a span of a handful of overs, when he was caught behind off an inside edge to Zaheer, with the team score at 65/2.

This brought together the pair that wreaked havoc for the Indian bowlers in the previous Test. Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, both in excellent form, took off from where the openers left, and denied Indian bowlers the opportunity to dent the batting line-up further. Both of them had their troubles against Harbhajan early on, but they managed to survive, and take the advantage home. Younis was let off when he was on just 11, when a direct hit from Sachin Tendulkar, from mid-on, could have easily found him short of his ground.

The partnership was brought to a halt though at 142, when Younis was caught spectacularly by Yuvraj Singh at point off RP Singh’s bowling. Yousuf followed soon after, fiddling with a delivery wide outside off stump, and carving it to slip, giving RP Singh, who was by far the best bowler on the day, his third wicket. This provided the visitors yet another chance to come back, and skittle the Pakistani batting for anything less than 400. However, Inzamam and Afridi had other ideas.

While Inzamam was steady at the other end, Afridi started pompously at his. He thrashed Anil Kumble, who definitely looked out of sorts, for three boundaries in one over, before settling down, and playing more maturely. As the final session progressed, he started coming back to his aggressive ways, totally shifting gears in the unlikely period of the last five overs of the day’s play. He mauled Irfan Pathan for 22 runs in one over, just a few overs after the new ball was taken. By the time stumps was called, he had notched up 85 runs, while Inzamam sat pretty at 79.

Pakistan 379/4 in 90 overs
Younis Khan 83, Mohammad Yousuf 65, Inzamam-ul-Haq 79*, Shahid Afridi 85*
RP Singh 3/77

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