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Sehwag, Tendulkar put India in command

Last updated on: March 29, 2004 18:17 IST

Scorecard | Images from Day 2

India played their first Test way back in 1932, but since then not one their players scored a triple century. V V S Laxman got close during the epic 281 against Australia at Kolkata, but fact is while every major Test-playing nation had a triple centurion, India had none. Those days are over now.

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Virender Sehwag and his bat carried the hopes of a nation as he walked out to resume his record-breaking innings on Day 2 of the first Test at Multan. And he did not disappoint. When he was finally dismissed for 309, he walked off to a standing ovation from his team mates and, no doubt, the whole of India.

And where praise is due one must not hold back because Sehwag certainly deserves it. His hunger for runs is so great that the Pakistani batsmen will quake in their boots every time he walks out to bat for the rest of the series.

At close of play on day 2,  Pakistan were 42 for no loss in reply to India's first innings total of 675 for five declared.

In the euphoria of Sehwag's epic knock, Sachin Tendulkar's 33rd Test century was shadowed. The master batsman was 194 not out, off 348 balls, when stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid declared the Indian innings after the fall of Yuvraj Singh's wicket.

Tendulkar is now within a century of former India captain Sunil Gavaskar's world record of 34 Test hundreds.

Lunch (111 runs in 28 overs)

There is a thin line between success and failure. And every time Virender Sehwag is on the playing field he treads that line. His genius is fraught with risk; teams realise this and hope for the best.

A sparse crowd and the grim faces of the Pakistani players greeted the dashing opener, on 228 not out, and Tendulkar, 60 not out, as India looked to pile on the agony.

Tendulkar had looked rock solid on Day 1. Today, he would look to break free.

Shoaib Akhtar charged with purpose and Sami matched his effort as, for the first time in the Test, the Pakistan bowlers consistently beat the bat. The new ball was eight overs old and the hosts knew that their only chance of getting a breakthrough was early in the day.

One boundary through the off-side was followed by another on the leg-side, and Sehwag had passed Tendulkar 's 241 not out -- scored against Australia in the third Test -- to become the second highest individual scorer for India.

A more even contest between bat and ball was unfolding on the ground as the Pakistani speedsters reined in their attacking instincts and concentrated on a good line and length.

The fielders were set deep for Sehwag. Shots that fetched him fours on Day 1 got him a measly single. The hustle of yesterday was missing but it was replaced by cool determination.

The partnership between Sehwag and Tendulkar had already assumed record- breaking proportions.

On 274, Sehwag recorded his highest first class score. "Records are meant to be broken," Sehwag had said at close of play on Day 1. They were tumbling in the course of this innings.

In between, he almost got run out. Tendulkar pushed wide of the cover fielder and took off for a single. Somewhere along the way, Sehwag realised that a two could be possible. Yousuf Youhana attacked the ball and threw it in with pace and accuracy, but Sehwag got in though only just.

While all the attention was being cornered by Sehwag, Tendulkar quietly cruised to his 33rd century, just one behind Sunil Gavaskar's all-time record of 34. The master batsman is yet to be dismissed in 2004.

Sehwag has nerves of steel, but for once they were frayed. Pakistan had already dropped him twice in his innings. He got two more chances in one Shabbir Ahmed over. Both times the ball pitched in line with the off-stump and moved a little off the seam to take the edge of his broad blade. The diving fielders failed to hold on to the tough chances. Shabbir sank to his knees and his misery became even more pronounced when he was hit for a four.

At lunch, Sehwag was unbeaten on 292, with Tendulkar giving him company on 106 not out as India reached 467 for the loss of two wickets.

India scored 111 runs in 28 overs without losing a wicket.

Post lunch session (121 runs in 30 overs for the loss of two wickets)

Things proceeded at snail's pace as Sehwag neared the historic milestone. It is not every day that one gets a chance to etch his name in the annals of history. The opener certainly wanted to make sure of that.

They say the last mile is the longest. With every run, the expectations of a nation seemed to weigh even more on Sehwag's shoulder.

Tendulkar and Sehwag took their runs in singles, keeping the scorecard ticking at a good rate. Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul Haq spread the field far and wide in an attempt to limit the damage and restrict the run-rate as much as possible.

One could see Sehwag getting frustrated by the pacemen. Like Tendulkar at the other end,  he decided to curb the aggressive strokes. But the introduction of Saqlain into the attack seemed to breathe new life into him.

All the pent up aggression was finally released when Sehwag skipped down the pitch and hammered the off-spinner high and mighty into the stands to bring up his triple century with his sixth six of the innings.

He became the 17th player to score a triple century and the first Indian to do reach the landmark. For the first time in the day, a huge smile creased across his face. maybe out of sheer relief .

Having achieved what he had set out to do, Sehwag's concentration wavered and he was finally dismissed. A short of good length delivery climbed a little on him. He tried to steer it to third man, but the resultant edge flew straight to Taufeeq Umar at first slip. Sami got his second wicket of the innings.

The partnership for the third wicket was a record-breaking 336, India's highest against Pakistan and for the wicket.

Tendulkar continued unabated at the other end. And there was no end in sight. The master batsman now decided to step up the scoring rate. Laxman continued to stroke the ball well, reaching 29 without the help of a boundary, before he was dismissed.

He was run out, but there was no one to blame but himself. He got on his back foot to pull the ball hard to deep mid wicket where Youhana made a good stop and rifled a throw back to the wicket-keeper to catch the Hyderabadi out of his crease. Laxman had ambled through for the first run and missed out on a golden opportunity to get some runs.

Yuvraj Singh, playing only his second Test, walked in next and played a patchy innings but was still there at tea on 11. Tendulkar, at the other end, had gone on from strength to strength and reached 165.

At the break, India were 588 for the loss of four wickets. But after Sehwag's knock everything else seemed to be anti-climax.

Post-tea (India 13.5 overs, 87 runs; Pakistan 16 overs, 42 runs)

India continued to pile on the runs in the last session of the day. Yuvraj, after looking uncomfortable early in his innings, settled down to play some brilliant shots.

One punched drive to wide long-off was the pick of the shots. The timing and placement of that shot was simply superb. Tendulkar, who  scored (241* and 60*) 301 runs in the first Test he played this year in Australia, also started to play a few more shots after word came from the dressing room that a declaration was round the corner.

Yuvraj upped the tempo and reached his fifty with a spanking boundary. He scored 59 off 66 balls before lobbing one straight back to part-time Imran Farhat. Acting skipper Rahul Dravid almost immediately declared the innings to leave Tendulkar unbeaten on 194.

Many will argue whether it would have made a difference to the teams plans had Tendulkar been allowed to reach his double century. But it is a sign of new maturity among the players. Personal milestones simply don't matter.

India's total 675 for the loss off five wickets is huge but they realise that to win they need to take 20 Pakistan wickets. On a pitch as placid as this, they need all the time they can possibly get.

The Pakistani openers had to play 16 overs and make sure that when stumps were drawn for the day they were both at the wicket. They negotiated the overs well but did have a few heart-stopping moments.

Imran Farhat survived a close leg-before appeal with the total on 3. Irfan, after bowling outswingers, cleverly bowled a delivery that moved in to trap the batsman. But the umpire turned down the huge appeal.

In stark contrast to the Pakistani pacemen, Irfan Pathan got the ball to swing in the air and off the wicket as well. The advantage of pitching the ball up and allowing it to swing was clearly visible.

Taufeeq Umar gave the only other clear chance of the session. A flighted googly from Kumble pitched in line with the leg-stump. Umar tried to flick it but hit it uppishly to Sehwag at leg slip. A very sharp chance went to ground as the fielder barely got his fingertips to the ball.

At close of play, Pakistan were 42 runs for no loss with Imran Farhat on 17 and Taufeeq Umar on 20. Both openers curbed their attacking instincts in the team's interest.

The onus is now on Kumble to get the wickets for India when play resumes on Day 3.

Ashish Magotra