Pakistan Crush Indian Hopes

In 1954-55 India, led by Vinoo Mankad, embarked on their first tour to Pakistan. All five Tests ended in dour draws, and the captains were criticised for their negative tactics: both felt an obligation to ‘kill’ the game before attempting any push for victory.

Now it seems, following several memorable and scintillating series, that Asian cricket has turned full circle, though on this occasion the Pakistani groundsmen are more at fault than the players. On a day when India finally totalled 603; Pakistan, restarting 15 runs behind, effortlessly stamped out the smouldering oxygen-starved cigarette of a positive result into the dust of Faisalabad.

With the only likely outcome a draw, Pakistan’s first aim must have been to nullify the Indian spin threat, and build a safe platform clear of any uncertainty. That they did, with only the loss of opener Salman Butt the only hiccup. Having seen off a tricky start from the opening seamers, a lax Salman drove hard at Kumble but found only Tendulkar at short mid-wicket.

From then on Kamran Akmal, promoted to opener in Shoaib Malik’s absence, and Younis Khan, cemented the home side’s position. Akmal unleashed several signature full-blooded cover drives, while Younis, the quicker scorer of the two took the attack to the spinners. By the end of the day, Inzamam’s team sat squatly atop a mountain of runs, with the Indians also content to let the match meander into the mutual safety of a stalemate.

Although India were still 147 runs adrift of the Pakistani first innings total at the beginning of the day, MS Dhoni, receiving valuable support from the rising star of Irfan Pathan, quickly eradicated the possibility of a Pakistan victory. Dhoni, who had completed a maiden Test hundred the previous evening, was soon into his pugnacious, bowler-bashing rhythm. Cracking 18 off Shoaib’s first over, the keeper-batsman tore into the Pakistan attack, adding a further 50 runs in 10.4 overs with Pathan, until a hot-headed stampede down the track left him stranded on 148. Pathan himself then came to the fore, combining with Kumble to take the score to 529 before being trapped leg before by a toiling Abdul Razzaq.

Harbhajan Singh then provided the fuel to drag India past the Pakistani score, smashing five fours and two sixes in a cameo 38, while Zaheer Khan hit a solitary maximum in his innings of 20 not out. Shahid Afridi provided the only moment of real celebration for the fielding side with a remarkable one-handed return catch to dismiss RP Singh.

Already, as they did in Lahore, heads turn to the final Test in Karachi as the media circus travels south in hope of fresh life into the series. With neither side able to claim any real advantage in either batting or bowling form, such has been the inadequacy of the featherbed playing surfaces, one hopes to see a emerald-tinged wicket or a crumbling death track – if only to dilute the vast quantities of meaningless runs.

Pakistan 588 all out (136.2) and 152 for one (43)
Kamran Akmal 59, Younis Khan 64

India 603 all out (165.4)
Rahul Dravid 103, VVS Laxman 90, MS Dhoni 148, Irfan Pathan 90; Danish Kaneria 3 for 165

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