Ganga Battles Hard in Karachi

A see-saw day of Test cricket in Karachi saw the West Indies, chasing a series-levelling victory, close 113 runs astray of Pakistan’s 304 with four wickets still standing. Daren Ganga clung on limpet-like on a slow, low surface to end the second day unbeaten on 77, but could only look on as the wickets of his colleagues tumbled around him.

In the opening session of the day, Pakistan’s lower order added 47 useful runs to their overnight score of 257 for seven, including a last wicket stand of 32 between Umar Gul, who struck 26, and Danish Kaneria. Wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal had earlier chipped in with 31.

Chris Gayle opened up the West Indian response in his signature style, repeatedly slapping the Pakistan seamers through the covers, while Ganga signified his intentions early on by digging in against the new ball. However his slightly fortuitous exit – caught at mid-on off a long-hop – opened up a crevasse for Umar Gul to expose in an inspired spell of fast bowling, and 51 for no loss soon became 51 for three. Two balls after Gayle’s dismissal, Umar Gul slit Brian Lara’s defences in two with a delivery that knifed into the off-stump and another two overs later Gul produced the unplayable reverse-swinging yorker to dismantle Ramnaresh Sarwan’s furniture.

The only man (other than opposition batsmen) who appears to have really benefited from the absence of Shoaib Ahktar and Mohammad Asif in the Pakistan side is Gul. Injured for a long spell following his devastating display against India in 2004, Gul had shown his capabilities as a spearhead in England this year, but yet the inevitable shadow of Shoaib and the young demi-god of Asif meant that he was seen as little more than a support bowler in a strike bowler’s role. All has changed now: when Asif does return, he will do so with Gul, not Shoaib. The pair is a mouth-watering combination of classic Pakistani reverse-swing bowling, yet adaptable enough to be a real threat on the hard pitches of Australia, the greentops of New Zealand and their dusty breeding-ground of pitches like this at Karachi.

Ganga, despite the carnage at the opposite end, remained calm and although he wisely restricted himself to only a handful of aggressive shots given the nature of the pitch, there were several standout off-drives to punctuate his watchful innings. His new partner, Shivnarine Chanderpaul was more fluent, but he too fell after making a healthy 36 when Imran Farhat clung onto a catch at short-leg off the leg-spin of Kaneria. Runako Morton, who carved out 21, met a similarly unlucky fate when another clip into the leg-side lobbed up off Farhat’s shoulder into his hands. The wickets were just rewards however for Kaneria in his most impressive showing of the series so far, and he finished with three for 48 when Dwayne Bravo bottom-edged to Akmal for just eight.

Ganga, who finished with 77 from 214 balls, saw the day out along with Denesh Ramdin, taking the West Indies to 191 for six. The tourists must now offer Ganga the support he deserves to limit the deficit to as little as possible, particularly with the prospect of batting last on a wearing pitch against Kaneria. It will be a struggle and is unlikely to be pretty, but it is harsh environments like the National Stadium that build recovering teams into champion teams.

Pakistan 304 all out (100.5 overs)
Mohammad Yousuf 102, Imran Farhat 47
Corey Collymore 3-57

West Indies 191-6 (72.4 overs)
Chris Gayle 40, Daren Ganga 77, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 36
Danish Kaneria 3-48, Umar Gul 3-49

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