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Pakistan struggle on placid pitch

Ashish Magotra | March 30, 2004 13:07 IST
Last Updated: March 31, 2004 20:20 IST

Scorecard | Images from Day 3

India's bowlers struck twice in each session to have Pakistan struggling to save the follow-on in the first Test.

At close on day 3, Pakistan were 364 for 6, still needing 112 runs to avoid the follow-on.

When stumps were drawn for the day, all-rounder Abdul Razzaq was unbeaten on 47, after Moin Khan (17) was bowled between his legs by part time spinner Sachin Tendulkar off the day's last ball.

Yasir Hameed (91) and captain Inzamam-ul-Haq (77) provided stubborn resistance but India's bowlers stuck to their task on an unhelpful pitch to take the day's honours.

Left-arm fast bowler Irfan Pathan picked two wickets while Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Anil Kumble and Tendulkar claimed one each.

Morning session (30 overs, 95 runs, two wickets)

India started the day well, claiming the wicket off Taufeeq Umar after only eight overs had been bowled.

A few overs later, they tasted success again when Laxmipathy Balaji claimed the wicket of Imran Farhat.

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Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan maintained a good line and length early on. They not only kept the runs down but also beat the bat on several occasions. On a pitch that had offered no assistance to the Pakistan bowlers, these two bowlers struck a good rhythm and troubled the batsmen.

Irfan, in particular, got the ball to swing. Zaheer, though clearly out of form, produced yet another lion-hearted effort. Trying his best not to let Irfan's effort go waste at the other end, he managed to extract some disconcerting bounce from the wicket.

Pathan struck the first blow to Pakistan's hopes of saving the Test when he dismissed Taufeeq Umar. The ball pitched in line with the off-stump and caught the batsman in two minds. Umar, rather reluctantly, stabbed at it and the resultant thick edge flew straight to Rahul Dravid at first slip. (58-1)

Yasser Hameed joined Imran Farhat in the middle and a few more overs passed with nothing much happening. That's when Dravid decided to make a bowling chance. And it brought India rewards instantly.

The first bowling change of the day introduced Balaji into the attack. He trapped Farhat plumb in line with the stumps and umpire David Shepherd had no hesitation in giving the decision in India's favour. (73-2)

The Pakistan innings seemed to be crumbling all of a sudden. But the appearance of Inzamam at the wicket changed all that. He was confidence personified as he faced pace and spin with equal conviction and ease.

After the first hour, the moisture seemed to die out and batting was easy. But the Indians need to be disciplined and success will come.

Hameed, at the other end, also grew in confidence as the duo put on an unfinished partnership of 64 when lunch was called.

At the lunch break, Pakistan were 137 for the loss of two wickets. In the 30-over session, Pakistan scored 95 runs.

Post-Lunch session (30 overs, 115 runs, 2 wickets)

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, says a line in the Bible. You have to say Pakistan skipper Inzamam and Hameed tried to match Sehwag's brilliance with the bat. And, for a while, it seemed as if they would succeed.

Boundaries flowed from the bats of both batsmen. Hameed was particualrly brutal on Zaheer. The left-armer strayed in line and Hameed took full toll. A boundary through the legs was followed by another through the off-side, as if to prove he also could dispatch the ball to all parts of the ground. In the next over, he hit an exquisite straight drive. Hameed reached his fifty thus and looked good for plenty more.

Inzamam, at the other end, played shots with such lazy elegance and class that the signs were truly ominous for India. His footwork was sure and so was his execution. The Pakistani skipper averages over 50 in Test cricket and if the hosts were going to challenge India they needed him to play a big innings.

The Indians were starting to drift and even though Kumble had kept things tight, Pakistan were generally starting to settle down.

V V S Laxman reacted late to a bat pad chance when Hameed was on 82. Kumble was the bowler. A breakthrough was vital and for once the Indian fielders looked desperate.

But in the same over, Kumble got his own back. He claimed the big wicket of Inzamam. The most experienced and classy batsman in the Pakistan team was sent back to the pavilion on 77, when Akash Chopra, at forward short leg, held on to a sharp chance. Replays proved inconclusive later but umpire Simon Taufel had given his decision.

The Indians rejoiced even as Inzamam stood rooted to the spot.

Inzamam and Hameed had put on 160 runs in a fine exhibition of batting. And, as it so often happens in cricket, the fall of a wicket is followed by another.

Hameed followed his skipper back to the hut soon after. The ball was now 72 overs old and starting to reverse a little. Balaji had been bowling well at one end when Dravid suddenly decided to give the ball to Irfan. The move worked. For the second time in the day a bowling change got India the wicket.

Pathan's stock ball moves into the right-hander. But he got one to angle across the batsman. There was a bit of extra bounce and Hameed pushed it away from his body, and got a faint edge straight to the keeper. He was gone for 91.

Pakistan were in trouble and their hopes of avoiding the follow-on now rested with Yousuf Youhana.

At tea, they were 252 for the loss of four wickets. Youhana, 3, and Abdul Razzaq, 8, were at the crease. 

Post-Tea session (30 overs, 112 runs, two wickets)

The Pakistan batsmen stood firm on a placid pitch even as the Indians tried everything to win the Test. Different variations were used, bowlers were switched around, and the part-time bowlers were given a go but without much success.

The lesser said about the pitch the better. No doubt Sehwag batted brilliantly; but pitches like this one at Multan are bad for the game. A true connoisseur of the game will always like to see a real contest between bat and ball and so far the bat has completely dominated the ball in the series.

It is learnt that the pitch was shorn of grass only at Yousuf Youhana's insistence. A decision that not even Inzamam and coach Javed Miandad were aware of. Pakistan's strength is their bowling attack and a decision like this is baffling.

Youhana and Razzaq batted with tremendous determination. The going was slow but it was exactly what the doctor had ordered for Pakistan. No risks needed to be taken and none were. The second new ball was taken as soon as it was available, and Pathan was given the responsibility of taking the attack to the Pakistanis once again. But runs came quicker.

A few classic boundaries followed before Zaheer struck. Youhana tried to flick a ball that was drifting way down the leg-side and got what was probably a very thin edge. The umpire had no doubt but it was a very marginal decision and it could have gone either way.

Youhana, 35, added 78 runs with Razzaq for fifth wicket.

Moin Khan walked in to join the all-rounder. While Razzaq had punished the bowlers to great effect in the one-dayers, now he changed his technique completely. All the unorthodox shots were done away with as he concentrated on staying at the wicket.

Even as the last over was being bowled by Tendulkar, Dravid had the field spread out. Not exactly the best strategy when you are looking to get wickets. But Dravid had made the right bowling changes throughout the day, and once again his luck held out.

With just two close-in fielders around the bat, both on the off-side, it was surprising to see how nervous Moin was as the last ball was being bowled. Tendulkar bowled a googly that pitched on the off-stump and turned in. Moin completely misread the delivery and got into an awkward position as he tried to defend. The ball went between his legs, clipping his left leg, before crashing into his leg-stump.

Moin was dismissed for 17 and Pakistan were reduced to 364 for 6. Razzaq ended the day on an unbeaten 47.

A wicket on the last ball of the day will give India a psychological edge on Day 4. They will now know that a few wickets more could well set them on the path to victory.

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