Afridi and Inzy do it again

Shahid Afridi smashed a monstrous 156 as Pakistan dominated the second day of the second Test against India at Faisalabad. Inzamam-ul-Haq also scored 119 as Pakistan racked up a mammoth 588 in their 1st innings, with India finishing the day on 110-1 in reply, having lost Virender Sehwag for 31.

Pakistan began the second day on 379-4 overnight, with both Afridi and Inzamam closing in on their centuries. The Faisalabad crowd were expectant; the batsmen did not disappoint. Inzamam missed the first hour’s play, retiring hurt overnight to be replaced by Abdul Razzaq, but the morning’s play was dominated by one batsman and one batsman alone – Shahid Afridi.

He began the day on 85*, and was soon racing along past 100, carting Irfan Pathan high into the midwicket stands to bring up his fifth Test century. The madness didn’t stop there. Afridi’s innings was a mixture of cleverly-worked singles, clinical punishment of the bad ball, and, of course, sporadic and unrestrained violent hitting. He punished the Indian bowlers’ inaccuracy, whilst occasionally seeing fit to remind them that he was capable of launching the ball into the stratosphere whenever he felt like. He blitzed 71 of the 88 runs that came in the first hour – Razzaq, so often the aggressor himself, was little more than an awestruck spectator.

Afridi brought up his 150 within the first hour’s play – his first in Tests – and followed it up with a brutal boundary off Pathan, stepping down the track and blasting him through long-off. This was his 20th boundary to go with his half a dozen sixes. He didn’t last much longer, however, swiping at Anil Kumble and only succeeding in hoisting it up in the air for Yuvraj Singh to pocket the catch – but by then, the damage had already been done. It is becoming increasingly clear that Shahid Afridi is no longer the brainless slogger he once was – the ability with which he manipulated singles all round the wicket during this innings showed a startling and new-found responsibility. Bowlers of the world, beware.

After Afridi’s departure, the run-rate came to something of a standstill – new batsman Kamran Akmal only lasted two balls, being dismissed by Kumble, and Razzaq fell for a sedate 37 to debutant RP Singh, who picked up four wickets to cap a useful performance. Inzamam returned to the crease at the fall of Akmal’s wicket, and progressed to his century just before lunch, managing to overcome his discomfort to loft Anil Kumble for six in the process. Razzaq’s dismissal brought Shoaib Akhtar to the crease, and his arrival brought more mayhem, albeit of a more controlled sort.

Akhtar, as he had done in the series against England, interspersed dogged defence with powerful slogging, and struck three massive sixes on his way to 47 off 54 balls, his highest Test score. He fell short of his maiden Test fifty by trying to loft Zaheer Khan over extra cover, and was visibly upset at having done so. Inzamam had earlier fallen to a beautiful leg-cutter from Khan, who nabbed three wickets on his recall to the side at the expense of Ajit Agarkar. This meant Pakistan finished on 588 all out, an imposing total indeed, despite the flat nature of the pitch. Irfan Pathan had one of his worst days as a Test cricketer, finishing with figures of 0-106 from 19 overs.

Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid stepped up to the crease for 11 overs before the tea break, with Sehwag continuing his good form in striking 31* from 40 balls, including six boundaries. At 39-0 at tea, India had made a solid start, despite substitute Imran Farhat flooring a simple catch at first slip off Sehwag. It didn’t take long for the breakthrough to come after the break, though – Abdul Razzaq’s introduction brought immediate dividends, with Sehwag falling three balls after tea, without adding to his score.

This brought VVS Laxman to the crease to partner the watchful Rahul Dravid – it also slowed the run-rate down, with Mohammad Asif keeping it tight at the other end in only his second Test. VVS Laxman had a lucky escape when Mohammad Yousuf attempted to run him out backing up – Yousuf missed the stumps, and Rahul Dravid collected four runs in overthrows, which he followed with another boundary to get the scoreboard ticking again.

Dravid and Laxman continued to rumble along at a steady rate for the majority of the evening session, with Danish Kaneria’s introduction posing them few problems, on a pitch that once again appears made for batting. Shoaib Akhtar’s reintroduction towards the end of the day also failed to ask many questions of the batsmen. The two top-order players got India through to stumps with no further alarms, and they will need to continue their partnership for a while yet if India are to recover from what was another fantastic day for the batsmen.

Pakistan 588
Afridi 156, Inzamam 119, Younis 83, Yousuf 65; RP Singh 4-89

India 110-1
Dravid 46*, Sehwag 31; Razzaq 1-28

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Matt Pitt