M A I N   N E W S

Anil Kumble casts spell
India on verge of historic victory in Pak
M.R. Mishra

Multan, March 31
India were tantalisingly close to their first-ever Test win in Pakistan which was forced to follow on and left staring at defeat after Anil Kumble took seven wickets on the penultimate day of the Multan Test here today.

On a humiliating day for the home side, the Indians quickly knocked off the last four wickets of Pakistan’s first innings, enforced the follow-on and then left them on a pathetic 207 for nine in the second innings. The visitors are still ahead by 61 runs and need to take only the last Pakistani wicket on the final day to record a win after 52 years.

The under-rated Indian bowling attack took a total of 13 wickets during the day but a brilliant unbeaten 107 by vice-captain Yousuf Youhana forced the match on to the fifth day although the play was extended by half an hour today.

Kumble’s six for 71 in the second innings, his 24th five-wicket haul in Tests, followed his two for 100 in the first innings. The ace leg-spinner was greatly supported by the lion-hearted left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan who scalped two first innings wickets and one in the second.

The disciplined Indian bowling, coupled with an inept home side batting, put India on the threshold of a historic win on Pakistan soil.

The seasoned Kumble, returning to the Test squad after a two-month break due to an injury, showed that he was still a force to reckon with as he produced a mesmerising spell to break the backbone of the Pakistani batting.

Standing tall among the ruins, Youhana unleashed a flurry of strokes towards the end of the day in desperation and giving him company at close of play was last man Shabbir Ahmed, yet to open his account.

The visitors have an entire day tomorrow to claim the remaining wicket and gain a 1-0 lead in this historic three-match series.

The Indians did their best to wrap up the match today but Youhana launched a counter-attack with a barrage of boundaries to notch up his 11th Test century.

Earlier, the home team plunged into trouble straightaway after the lunch break as they lost Imran Farhat (24), Taufiq Umar (9), captain Inzamam-ul Haq (0) and Yasir Hameed (23) in quick succession to allow the Indians to take a firm grip on the match.

After being bundled out for 407 in the first innings, about half an hour before the lunch break, the two Pakistani openers — Imran Farhat and Taufiq Umar — seemed determined to give a solid start to their team, playing watchfully against Pathan and L. Balaji.

The Indians did not allow the absence of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who bowled just one over during the pre-lunch session and did not take the field again due to a muscle strain, to hamper them as they went about taking wickets at regular intervals.

The Pakistani openers took the score to 33 before Kumble struck the first blow by evicting Farhat who looked more aggressive of the two batsmen. The left-hander went for a drive but only succeeded in edging the ball to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps.

In his very next over, Kumble inflicted another blow by getting rid of the other opener Umar who offered no stroke and was trapped leg before wicket to a sharp delivery. But the biggest jolt for the home team came a few minutes later when captain Inzamam, who has been in tremendous form, was run out for a duck to give the visitors a firm control of the game.

Inzamam failed to reach the safety of his crease as Yuvraj Singh’s direct hit from the mid-on region hit the stumps, reducing Pakistan to a precarious 44 for three by the 21st over.

The in-form Yasir Hameed and Yousuf Youhana tried to perform the salvage job before part-timer Yuvraj Singh joined the party, claiming the prized scalp of Hameed for 23. He went for a shot on the on-side but failed to control it and Virender Sehwag held on to a well-judged catch in the short fine leg region.

Youhana and Razzaq managed to survive till the tea break, taken with Pakistan on 91 for four, but the visitors came back strongly and kept beating the two batsmen persistently, Pathan being the luckless bowler on a number of occasions.

However, Kumble brought an end to Razzaq’s resistance with Aakash Chopra taking a brilliant reflex catch at forward short leg. A few overs later, Pathan trapped Moin Khan leg before wicket to compound the misery of the hosts.

The penultimate day’s play began in dramatic fashion as India snared up three of the last four wickets within 10 minutes of play. But the Indians were frustrated by the last pair of Mohammad Sami and Shabbir Ahmed and it was only about half an hour before the lunch break that they managed to break their resistance.

Pathan fired the first salvo in the morning by claiming the wicket of Abdul Razzaq off the very first ball with a rising delivery which took the edge and Parthiv Patel latched on to an easy catch behind the wickets. Razzaq’s 47 included six boundaries which came in 140 minutes.

The young paceman from Baroda struck again in the very next over by removing Saqlain Mushtaq who had himself to blame for his dismissal as he played a rash stroke. Mushtaq tried to hit a rising delivery but could not control his shot and spooned a catch to Zaheer Khan at mid off.

Tendulkar tightened the noose around the hosts by claiming the wicket of Shoaib Akhtar to reduce Pakistan to 371 for nine by the third over of the day. Akhtar went for a forward defensive shot but could not keep the ball on the ground and Tendulkar gleefully accepted a simple return catch.


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