Pakistan pulling away

After a first day packed with intrigue and wickets, the second day’s play at Karachi saw Pakistan begin building a healthy lead, thanks to half-centuries from both openers. Four wickets from Mohammad Asif had earlier secured a seven-run lead for Pakistan after India’s first innings was ended on 238.

The day began with India on 74-4 overnight, with Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh the men upon whose shoulders the task of rescuing India fell. If their partnership was broken early, India faced the possibility of conceding a large lead. However, they stood strong in the face of some aggressive bowling from Shoaib Akhtar, and Yuvraj in particular looked in good touch against the nippy seam movement of Mohammad Asif.

They progressed to a partnership of 81, with 61 of those coming in the morning session, before Ganguly (34) did what everyone who watches him bat regularly has seen many times before. He played the pull shot to a short delivery from Abdul Razzaq, failed to connect properly, and saw the ball sail to deep square leg, where Asif pocketed the catch. His disgust at the manner of his dismissal was clear, as he threw a glove at the ground on his way off the field.

Asif then took centre stage, removing Yuvraj (45) with one that nipped back, trapping him leg-before to end a promising innings. After a probing spell of full-pitched, accurate seam bowling, it was no more than Asif deserved. He nearly succeeded in removing MS Dhoni, with the Indian wicketkeeper-batsman looking edgy in the face of more movement from the 23-year-old, playing only his third Test. It was up to Abdul Razzaq to dismiss Dhoni, however, with a wild swipe outside off-stump ending his innings on 13.

Irfan Pathan remained at the crease, and he proceeded to play the type of innings that one has come to expect of him in recent months – he showed no fear against an express spell from Shoaib, watching his partner Anil Kumble fend off balls from his ribcage. Shoaib was treated with disdain as Pathan first stroked him through the covers for four, then spanked him over square leg for six. His innings came to an end on 40, when he attempted to lift a Shahid Afridi leg-break over the long-off fence, and only succeeded in finding Mohammad Yousuf at deep mid-off. However, by then the damage had been done, and with a helping hand from Zaheer Khan, who made 21, Pathan had lifted India to within seven runs of Pakistan, on 238. Mohammad Asif finished on figures of 4-78, his best in Tests, while Danish Kaneria was, bizarrely, not called upon to bowl for the home side.

Pakistan’s fielding had let them down on occasions in the first two Tests, and the story was the same here – not to mention the 17 no-balls that their bowlers gave away. Kumble and Pathan were let off by Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan respectively, while Asif and Shoaib were also guilty of dropped catches which could have cost their side dearly had they not occurred when the Indian tail was all but mopped up. Pakistan’s second innings began without alarm, and they proceeded to 26-0 at the tea interval.

After tea, Pakistan’s new opening combination of Salman Butt and Imran Farhat, called into the side because of the absence of Shoaib Malik, began to open up. They scored freely and at a good rate, both playing some attractive shots on each side of the wicket as they racked up a partnership that quickly moved past the 100 mark. However, Sourav Ganguly proved he is never far from the spotlight in making the breakthrough for India, his medium-pacers trapping the left-handed Butt leg-before for 53.

Shortly aftwards, Farhat was also on his way back to the pavilion, skying a back-foot shot to mid-on, where Sachin Tendulkar held the catch. Farhat’s return to Test cricket had been a fruitful one, as he finished on a solid 57, with ten boundaries. This brought India’s two destroyers at Faisalabad, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, back together again – they were soon into their stride as a partnership once more, keeping the scoring rate motoring along at close to four and a half runs an over.

There was a minor scare for India late in the day, as Tendulkar found himself needing treatment having taken a boot in the face from Younis Khan. The two collided as Tendulkar tried to run out the stand-in Pakistan captain from mid-on, and the former was left with bruising to his jaw as he left the field prematurely. Pakistan suffered no more alarms themselves, proceeding serenely to 173-2 at stumps, with Younis unbeaten on 25 and Yousuf on 30.

The third day of this match is sure to be a day of intrigue – if Pakistan can build on this lead, India may find themselves batted out of the game soon enough. However, if India can take early wickets tomorrow and force the door open, the game could be in the balance once more. Either way, a lead of 180 for Pakistan is already a positive situation for the home side, and India once again find themselves with some work to do.

Pakistan 245 all out
Abdul Razzaq 45, Kamran Akmal 113, Shoaib Akhtar 45
IK Pathan 5/61, Z Khan 2/75, RP Singh 3/66

India 238 all out
Yuvraj Singh 45, IK Pathan 40
Mohammad Asif 4/78, Abdul Razzaq 3/67

Pakistan 173/2
Imran Farhat 57, Salman Butt 53
S Ganguly 1/22, IK Pathan 1/39

Pakistan lead by 180 runs with eight second innings wickets in hand

Leave a comment

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

More articles by Matt Pitt