India well on top in Mohali

Virender Sehwag’s ninth Test century was the cornerstone of an Indian batting effort that impressed to the same extent as the Pakistani bowlers disappointed on the third day of the First Test at the Punjab CA Stadium in Mohali.

Resuming overnight 128 in arrears, India had erased the entirety of the deficit by the lunch interval, with Sehwag the destroyer-in-chief. Rahul Dravid recorded his 54th Test match innings of fifty or more, before becoming the only casualty of the morning’s play when he cut Mohammad Sami – who has so far recorded an incredible 14 no balls in the innings – to Pakistan’s first-innings saviour, Asim Kamal, at point. The subsequent change of guard, Sachin Tendulkar replacing Dravid, had no effect whatsoever on India’s fluent scoring rate.

Sehwag continued in the only manner in which he knows how to play, and his exuberance seemed to translate into the play of his senior partner as the two as Tendulkar – having survived an enthusiastic bat-pad appeal whilst on only eight – accelerated as he eyed a world record 35th Test century. The batsmen individually focused their attention on the only two bowlers Inzamam trusted to bear the attack, Sehwag facing the brunt of Danish Kaneria’s efforts and Tendulkar concentrating upon Abdul Razzaq.

The two added India’s third consecutive century stand of the innings before Sehwag was finally removed for 173, courtesy of Yousuf Youhana at long-on holding on as Razzaq’s efforts finally gleaned a breakthrough. With skipper Ganguly coming to the wicket, the morning’s top gear shifted dangerously close to neutral. Never comfortable against Kaneria’s wrist spin, the left-hander succeeded in bringing India’s run-rate down from Sehwag’s skies back into the realms of normality and, as had happened earlier, Tendulkar’s scoring rate was influenced by his partner’s.

Even when Ganguly’s misery was ended for a tortuous 74-ball 21, Salman Butt taking a regulation bat-pad catch after Kaneria deceived his man one final time. VVS Laxman replaced his captain in the middle, but the complexion of the game remained steadfastly unaltered. Thirty-six further runs were added at barely more than two per over before Inzamam finally turned to the second new ball, a full forty overs after the option first made itself available.

His eventual aggression was rapidly rewarded as Tendulkar, just six short of the three figures that would overhaul countryman Sunil Gavaskar’s all-time tally of 34 centuries, slashed Naved-ul-Hasan to the safe hands of Asim Kamal. By now, however, India’s lead had breached the hundred-run barrier and it was no more than a case of damage limitation for Pakistan, who added a sixth wicket before stumps as Dinesh Karthik’s struggles with the bat at international level continued.

The wicketkeeper failed to deal with Mohammad Sami’s extra pace and provided Naved, at short square leg, with nothing more than catching practice before Laxman (33*), who struck the catcher for three evening boundaries, and Irfan Pathan saw the hosts to the close of play without further loss, extending the lead to 135 in the process.

With two further days’ play remaining at the Punjab CA stadium, India must count themselves in as hot favourites to go 1-0 up in the series, both their bowling and top order batting seemingly comfortably superior over their visitors and arch-rivals. Pakistan’s victory hopes, meanwhile, seemingly lie in the hands and wrists of Danish Kaneria – easily their most impressive bowler, but even so one who will need much greater support and discipline from his team mates both with the ball and in the field.

Pakistan 312
Asim Kamal 91, Inzamam-ul-Haq 57
Lakshmipathy Balaj 5-76, Irfan Pathan 2-68

India 447-6
Virender Sehwag 173, Sachin Tendulkar 94
Mohammad Sami 2-103, Danish Kaneria 2-121

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