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Laxman, Dhoni save India the blushes
Harish Kotian in Delhi | November 23, 2007 11:15 IST
Last Updated: November 23, 2007 17:18 IST
VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] counter attacked in fine style to rescue India on the second day of the first Test against Pakistan, at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi, on Friday.
Both scored vital half-centuries in a 115-run partnership for the sixth wicket to rally India after they were reeling at 93 for 5 at one stage.
Dhoni scored a brisk 57 in 93 deliveries, hitting eight boundaries, before he was caught behind off Danish Kaneria.
Laxman, meanwhile, brought all his experience into play in the face of some lethal Pakistan fast bowling to help India avoid the blushes.
When play ended early due to bad light, Laxman was unbeaten on 57, inclusive of seven boundaries, off 107 deliveries, in India total of 228 for 6.
Earlier, Shoaib Akhtar [Images] claimed the wickets of openers Dinesh Karthik (9) and Wasim Jaffer (32) to trigger a middle order collapse.
Rahul Dravid [Images] made a breezy 38, with the help of eight boundaries, adding 56 runs for the second wicket with Jaffer, but four quick wickets in the space of seven overs saw India crumble from 71 for 1 to 93 for 5.
In the morning, Misbah-ul Haq single-handedly carried Pakistan to 231 in their first innings before he was run out in bizarre fashion for 83. He added 87 runs for the ninth wicket with Mohammad Sami [Images] (28 not out) before he was run-out to a throw from Dinesh Karthik as he jumped before entering the crease in a bid to avoid being hit by the ball.
Captain Anil Kumble ended Pakistan's innings in style, bowling Danish Kaneria for 0, to finish with figures of 4 for 38 in 21.2 overs.
Resuming on 210 for 8 in 85.4 overs, Pakistan looked to play out the new ball with a degree of caution. The good sign was that India was willing to attack even Misbah-ul Haq and, unlike on Day 1 when they spread out for Mirbah, kept an offensive field.
Misbah and Mohammad Sami started well and looked comfortable in playing out the first 30 minutes without any discomfort. Misbah, in particular, was threatening and started inching towards his maiden Test century.
However, his valiant knock of 83 came to an end in when he was run-out in a bizarre manner. The right-hander had safely reached the crease at the non-striker's end but while attempting to avoid a throw from Dinesh Karthik leaped over the line. To his horror, he was adjudged run out as neither his bat nor his feet were grounded when the ball crashed on to the stumps.
It ended a brilliant rearguard action from Misbah which stretched 243 deliveries, inclusive of six boundaries and a six. The ninth wicket partnership of 87 runs in 41.1 overs between Misbah and Sami had given Pakistan some real hope after the collapse in the first two sessions on day one.
Anil Kumble then polished off the last wicket, that of Dinesh Kaneria, in the next over. Kaneria had no answer to the quicker delivery from Kumble and was bowled for 0.
Pakistan survived for 51 minutes in the morning session before being bowled out for 231 in 96.2 overs.
Mohammad Sami finished unbeaten on 28, having stayed at the wicket for 101 deliveries. The application he showed during his partnership with Misbah proved really instrumental in Pakistan's fightback.
Kumble, in his first match as captain, emerged the most successful Indian bowler with a haul of 4 for 38 in 21.2 overs. Zaheer Khan [Images] took vital wickets at the start to end up with 2 for 45 in 20 overs.
Wasim Jaffer got India off the mark in style, flicking Shoaib Akhtar through square leg for a delightful boundary. Dinesh Karthik got his first boundary in the fourth over, neatly guiding the ball through the vacant third-man region, off Sohail Tanvir.
Shoaib was steaming in at full pace and even Indian fans were cheering, "Shoaib, Shoaib". He didn't let them down, claiming the opening wicket, that of Dinesh Karthik. The Indian opener edged behind to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and was out for 9 in the fifth over of the innings.
Rahul Dravid was hit on the pads by a quick in-swinging delivery from Shoaib off the first delivery he faced, but, luckily, the impact was outside the leg stump.
Dravid then struck Tanvir for three boundaries in the sixth over of the innings. Tanvir struggled to control his line and often drifted on the batsmen's pads and was promptly dispatched by both David and Wasim Jaffer for boundaries.
Shoaib bowled five overs in his first spell, taking one wicket for 11 runs, and quite often tested the Indian batsmen with his pace.
Despite losing an early wicket, India made a good start, reaching 46 for 1 in 12 overs.
Dravid played some delightful shots on both sides of the wicket to remain unbeaten on 18, inclusive of four boundaries. Jaffer was not out on 19, inclusive of three boundaries, having weathered a testing spell from Shoaib.
Both batsmen look in top form and will now be looking to make merry in the post-lunch session and post a big score.
Jaffer and Dravid continued milking the bowling after lunch as Pakistan were once again guilty of bowling too much on the leg side. The duo brought up their 50-run partnership when Jaffer flicked Shoaib for a boundary through square leg in the 20th over.
However, Shoaib had the last laugh when he claimed the wicket of Jaffer (32) in the next over. Jaffer moved across his stumps and tried to play through the leg side, but was trapped right in front. The right-hander looked in good touch and was timing the ball quite sweetly, but was dismissed attempting a rather casual shot.
But a bigger disaster followed when Sachin Tendulkar [Images] was run-out two balls later after scoring just 1. The Mumbai batsman was sent back as he attempted a second run, but failed to make the crease at the striker's end.
Pakistan now had the chance to put further pressure on India as they slipped to 73 for 3 in the 22nd over.
They then turned the match completely on its head when they claimed the wicket of Sourav Ganguly [Images]. The left-hander pushed forward to an incoming delivery from Tanvir but was beaten completely and bowled for 8.
India were reduced to 88 for 4 in the 26th over and the onus now lay on Dravid to rescue the hosts.
Tanvir then put Pakistan firmly on top with the important of Dravid for 38.
The former India captain was bowled as he played all over a delivery from the left-hander, attempting to flick across the line. India were reduced to 93 for 5 in just the 28th over and facing the prospect of being bowled out for a low score.
Surprisingly, Shoaib only bowled a three-over spell during which he took the wicket of Jaffer. With India having lost half their side, it was time to go on the attack; instead leg-spinner Danish Kaneria was introduced to partner the impressive Tanvir.
VVS Laxman was a refreshing change to the proceedings. He got off to a flying start, unleashing those sweetly-timed wristy shots. While Mahendra Singh Dhoni made sure that the running between the wickets was top notch, Laxman provided the calming influence from the other end.
Laxman hit a trademark straight boundary off Tanvir to take India to 139 for 5 at the tea break, still trailing Pakistan's first innings score by 92 runs.
Laxman was increasingly getting better and better as he finished unbeaten on 28 from 46 deliveries, including three boundaries. Dhoni also played positively to reach 17 not out from 23 deliveries, which had two boundaries.
The duo rotated the strike well while taking care of the loose deliveries as India kept a good scoring rate.
India will now be hoping they can end up the final session with minimum damage and take a big lead in the first innings.
It was Dhoni who took the initiative after the tea break as he tried to maintain the tempo with an array of strokes. He was particularly severe on anything wide outside the off-stump and rarely let any loose deliveries go waste. He took most of the strike and soon overtook Laxman's scoring.
The dashing wicketkeeper completed his half-century with a stylish boundary through the off-side in the 52nd over of the innings. He took 78 deliveries to reach the landmark, which included seven boundaries, but, importantly, had got India out of trouble.
The very next ball, he brought up the 100-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Laxman. The first hour after the tea break belonged totally to India as they brought up the century stand in 24 overs.
Dhoni just took off after the tea break and put pressure on the Pakistani bowlers with his aggressive approach. He used his feet quite well against the pacers and tried to counter the reverse swing they were getting.
Even though he kept the scoreboard ticking, Laxman held solid from the other end as the partnership threatened to take the game away from the visitors. It was looking good for India as they crossed the 200-run mark in the 55th over.
Dhoni continued playing aggressively, but it was this mode that eventually cost him his wicket. He stepped down the wicket to leg-spinner Danish Kaneria but edged the ball and was caught behind by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal for 57.
Pakistan's delight was quite evident as Dhoni in the company of Laxman had brought back India from the brink. Dhoni hit seven boundaries in his 93-ball knock, adding 115 runs for the sixth wicket with Laxman.
Laxman also completed his half-century soon after off 91 deliveries, hitting six boundaries. Kumble and Laxman batted quite sensibly in fading light before play was called off early due to bad light.
Kumble, who scored a century in his last Test in England [Images], started confidently and finished unbeaten on 7 at close of play.
The umpires offered the batsmen the light which they gladly accepted.
India ended the day on 228 for 6 in 63.2 overs. Laxman was not out on 57, having hit seven boundaries in his 107-ball knock.
India still trail Pakistan by three runs in the first innings.
13.4 overs were lost because of the early close of play due to bad light. However, it turned out to be quite an exciting day of Test cricket with no side being able to grab the game by the neck. The match is tantalizingly poised at the moment and any side that plays better cricket on the third game can have a chance of winning the Test.