Dhoni blasts India to safety

As if Shahid Afridi’s fireworks yesterday weren’t enough, Mahendra Dhoni wreaked havoc in a similarly explosive way to take the initiative for India, on Day 3 of the Second Test.

But before the Dhoni show, unbeaten batsmen Laxman and Dravid took centre stage. Mixing their elegant strokeplay with their equally solid defence they cruised to 236-2, with Dravid notching up a second consecutive century at the top. On a slow pitch, taking wickets was always going to be tall order for the bowlers, but Pakistan managed to muster four in eleven overs.

First to go was Laxman, for a patient 90 attempting to cut Kaneria. Substitute Imran Farhat proved to be the unlikely source of Dravid’s downfall, but his direct hit from square leg was too good for the Indian skipper.

With these twin breakthroughs, it was a resurgent Pakistan, particularly Shoaib Akhtar, who made the new ball count. The first breakthrough was made by Mohammad Asif however, as Yuvraj skied a hook shot to Danish Kaneria in the deep.

Shoaib’s ferocious spell deserved a wicket, but got one in debateable circumstances. A sharp bouncer brushed Tendulkar’s gloves, and the legend walked without looking at Simon Taufel. TV replays showed that Tendulkar’s glove was off the handle when it touched the ball.

In the same over, Dhoni smashed just his seventh ball for six. His intentions were crystal clear. India were 281-5, needing 107 more to avoid following on. Pakistan knew they had a chance of enforcing it.

But Dhoni quickly removed any hope of this from Pakistan’s minds. He may have rode his luck, but played some breathtaking shots. Spinners found themselves dispatched over midwicket, short balls flashed to the square boundaries and anything full was dismissively smacked away.

Dhoni’s hundred came up off just 93 balls, the first 50 taking 34. With the follow-on avoided Dhoni relaxed, rotating the strike comfortably with Pathan, who’s unbeaten 49 deserves a mention for the way he supported his more flamboyant counterpart, as well as showing what he could do when it was needed.

The pair shared 160 runs in a similar amount of minutes, and they took away Pakistan’s initiative they had earned ealier, as well as most of the chance of a result.

Pakistan 588 all out
Shahid Afridi 156, Inzamam Ul-Haq 119, Younis Khan 83
RP Singh 4-89, Zaheer Khan 3-135, Anil Kumble 3-150

India 441-5
Mahendra Dhoni 116*, Rahul Dravid 103, VVS Laxman 90
Shoaib Akhtar 1-73, Mohammad Asif 1-89, Danish Kaneria 1-94

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