Misbah-ul Haq's fighting half-century enabled Pakistan stage a remarkable recovery and finish the opening day on 210 for 8, in the first Test against India at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi on Thursday.
He was unbeaten on a brilliant 71, having added 68 runs for the ninth wicket with Mohammad Sami (20 not out), that rescued Pakistan after they were reeling at 142 for 8 at one stage.
Captain Anil Kumble shone in his first Test as skipper, claiming three wickets for 38 in his 20 overs. He took the wickets of Yasir Hameed (29), Kamran Akmal (30) and Shoaib Akhtar (2) as Pakistan's top order failed miserably after electing to bat.
Zaheer Khan had earlier triggered the collapse in the morning session when he claimed the wickets of Salman Butt (1) and Younis Khan (29) in his first spell.Morning session (74 runs in 28 overs, three wickets):
Kumble said on Wednesday that the pitch needs to be taken out of the equation as his team has the potential to do well on any surface. And that is what they proved, at least in the opening session.
The pitch didn't offer a great deal of support, but the Indian pacers, especially Zaheer Khan, stuck to the task well.
Munaf Patel, making a comeback, also started well, sending down three consecutive maiden overs.
Pakistan openers Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed could not quite play with the freedom or style they wanted. The pacers kept plugging at a tight line and length and were deservedly rewarded with a wicket in the fifth over of the innings.
Butt tried to play a forceful cut shot but was beaten by the incoming delivery from Zaheer and bowled for 1.
Younis Khan also struggled to get going and his downfall too came courtesy another careless shot. The Pakistan vice-captain (7) tried to take on a short delivery from Zaheer but only managed to hit it straight to Munaf Patel at fine leg in the 13th over.
Kumble, in his first Test as captain, didn't seem fazed by the extra burden and immediately settled into a good rhythm. The veteran spinner struck in his fourth over when he got the wicket of Hameed for 29. He had the batsman beaten all ends up with a straighter delivery to leave Pakistan in trouble at 59 for 3.
Mohammad Yousuf got going with a couple of boundaries against Zaheer in the 15th over. He rarely seemed in trouble during his stay at the wicket as he coasted to 27 from 42 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries.
At lunch, Pakistan were 74 for 3 after 28 overs, with Misbal-ul Haq unbeaten on 3 and Yousuf on 72.
Pakistan might have expected a better start after electing to bat, but all credit to the Indian bowlers, who kept things tight and were rewarded with regular wickets.
Kumble was also quite comfortable in his new role and very much involved in the game. His work was no doubt made easier by Zaheer, who bowled a wonderful spell of two wickets for 25 runs in eight overs. Zaheer not only showed good control, but also tried to make things happen. He got good support from Munaf, who consistently bowled in the high 130s.
Yousuf looks in great touch and, knowing his class, India will be hoping he gets out early after lunch.
Post-lunch session: (68 runs, 28 overs, 5 wickets)
Sourav Ganguly gave India an important breakthrough with his very first delivery after the break. Mohammad Yousuf tried to play across to an incoming delivery, but missed and was caught in front of the stumps for 27. Off the very next delivery he had another close leg before wicket appeal against Shoaib Malik turned down.
Reeling at 76 for 4, and with all their top batsman back in the hut, Pakistan were in some serious trouble.
It only got worse when, three overs later, Munaf dismissed Shoaib Malik. Pakistan's captain edged an out-swinging delivery and Pakistan were reduced to 83 for 5 in the 33rd over.
Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal tried to rescue the visitors with some positive batting. He looked to attack every loose delivery and not focus on defending wickets. He made a solid 30 from 50 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries, before being bowled by Kumble. The ball kept low and Akmal had no answers to the lack of bounce in the 48th over of the innings. That delivery, in many ways, also indicated what could follow, with the pitch offering uneven bounce as early as the second session of the match.
It was Kumble's 50th wicket at the Kotla in his sixth match; he becomes the only Indian bowler to take 50 wickets at a single venue.
Misbal-ul Haq, realizing he was running out of partners, launched Harbhajan for a huge straight six in the next over. But he could not continue in the same vein as the Indian spinners kept him on a tight leash.
Harbhajan's perseverance was finally rewarded when he got the wicket of Sohail Tanvir (4) in his sixth over. The left-hander was struck on the backfoot and given out leg before wicket for 4 as Pakistan slipped for 137 for 7.
Shoaib Akhtar did not last long either. Kumble beat him with another straight delivery. Akhtar (2) tried a wild slog across the line but failed to connect and the ball crashed into his stumps.
Pakistan avoided further damage and reached 142 for 8 in 56 overs at the tea break. Misbah-ul Haq was keeping one end going, having scored 32 from 97 deliveries, with two boundaries and a six.
Pakistan must now be hoping that the right-hander that can at least take the score past the 200-mark in the company of the tailenders.
The problem for Pakistan was none of their batsmen, despite some getting good starts, went on to play a long innings. Hameed (29), Yousuf (27) and Akmal (30) spent considerable time at the wicket, but were guilty of not making it count.
Once again it was a session dominated by India. They will now be looking to wrap the Pakistani innings quickly after tea. The pitch is getting lower and slower with every over and India must ensure that when their turn comes to bat, they make their first innings count.
Post-tea session: (68 runs, 29.4 overs, 0 wicket)
The next 10 overs after the tea break fetched just 14 runs as Pakistan opted for the safety-first approach.
Misbah tried to hit a few long shots but the Indians were well-prepared and spread the field, restricting him to singles only. Mohammad Sami was intent on just blocking one end up and frustrating the Indian bowlers.
Misbah reached his half-century with a cute reverse sweep boundary off Harbhajan in the 69th over. His maiden fifty in Tests took him 147 deliveries and included four boundaries and a six. It was turning out to be quite an important innings for Pakistan as Misbah, in the company of Sami, inched Pakistan towards the 200-run mark.
He batted quite intelligently and rotated the strike cleverly, making sure that Sami got less of the strike.
With every passing over Sami also grew in confidence, and his footwork got better, much to the frustration of the Indian bowlers and fans.
The Misbah-Sami partnership yeilded 50 vital runs in 24 overs for the ninth wicket. Even though they were scoring around two runs per over, more importantly, they held firm.
Kumble tried all his frontline bowlers, but none could make an impact as they had earlier in the day.
Sami hit a huge straight six off Ganguly in the 80th over to bring up Pakistan's 200. It was a very significant shot, as for the first time in the day the Indian bowlers were helpless while Pakistan looked in some sort of command.
Pakistan reached 203 for 8 after 81 overs and, not surprisingly, Kumble opted to take the new ball.
India had a chance though with the new ball when Misbah (69) attempted a pull shot but Harbhajan at square leg failed to hold on to a difficult chance in the 84th over, bowled by Munaf.
Only 4.4 overs were possible with the new ball as the two batsmen gladly accepted the offer of light.
At the end of play on the opening day, Pakistan were a healthy 210 for 8 in 85.4 overs. Misbah was unbeaten on a brilliant knock of 71 that rescued the visitors. His stay at the wicket, which stretched 266 minutes, comprised five boundaries and a six in 204 deliveries.
Sami's knock of 20 not out was equally important as the duo shared 68 runs to frustrate the Indian bowlers in the last session and deny them wickets.
After being reduced to 142 for eight at one stage, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before Pakistan folded up. But the 33-year-old Misbah, playing in only his eighth Test, showed great character to rally the Pakistan out of trouble.
The pitch improved through the day and batting now looks easier than it was in the morning. It is important that India bundles out Pakistan as early as possible tomorrow.