M A I N   N E W S

Chandigarh boy Yuvraj hits first Test century
M.R. Mishra

Shoaib Akhtar congratulates Yuvraj Singh after the latter scored his maiden Test century
Shoaib Akhtar congratulat
es Yuvraj Singh after the latter scored his maiden Test century on the first day of the second Test in Lahore on Monday.

Pakistan's Umar celebrates after dismissing V.V.S. Laxman on the first day of second Test
Pakistan's Umar celebrates after dismissing V.V.S. Laxman on the first day of second Test in Lahore on Monday. ó PTI photos

Lahore, April 5
India gambled in batting on a lively wicket and nearly collapsed before a fighting maiden century by one-day specialist Yuvraj Singh took it to a respectable 287 on the opening day of the second cricket Test against Pakistan here today.

Seeking to avenge their crushing defeat at Multan, the home side had made 61 for one at close to set the stage for a crucial day tomorrow which will have a major bearing on the course of the match.

Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid surprised many by choosing to bat on a wicket with some grass, specially prepared for Pakistanís fast bowlers who received a hiding on a batsman-friendly strip at Multan days ago. The two spearheads of the Pakistani attack ó Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami ó were again ineffective but the third seamer Umar Gul (5 for 31) had the formidable Indian batting tottering at 147 for seven at one stage.

In a superb rescue act, Yuvraj, playing only his third Test, and gutsy Irfan Pathan his fourth, put on 117 runs for the eighth wicket. Pathan, the new bowling sensation, made 49 while Yuvraj was the last wicket to fall for 112 off just 129 balls with two sixes and 15 fours.

The Indians were in a complete batting disarray on an absorbing opening day, watched by a small crowd of less than 1,000 at the Gaddafi Stadium.

The visitorsí hopes of making early inroads did not quite materialse although they did get rid of opener Taufiq Umar for 24 with the scoreboard reading 47.

When stumps were drawn for the day, Imran Farhat looked solid on 25 while a tentative Yasir Hameed was on four, as the hosts trailed the Indian total by 226 runs.

Pakistan lost Umar to a superb inswinger by seamer L Balaji even as play was extended by an hour to complete the quota of 90 overs.

Gul, who turns 20 on April 14, wrecked the Indian top order by capturing five wickets, including the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar (2), to help his side bundle out the visitors for 287 in 64.1 overs in their first innings one hour after the tea interval.

Gul, making it to the squad in place an injured Shabbir Ahmed, also got rid of first Testís triple-centurion Virender Sehwag (39) and VVS Laxman (11) in a devastating first spell. He returned to dismiss Dravid (33) and Parthiv Patel (0) in successive overs in an unchanged spell of 12 fiery overs.

Had it not been for Yuvraj and Pathan, the Indian innings would have really cut a sorry figure as the hosts, trailing the three-Test series 1-0, struck back with vengeance.

After the stupendous batting show in the first Test in Multan, it was a rather pathetic display by the top-order batsmen with some of them perishing to poor shots on a track which had generated considerable interest ahead of the crucial encounter.

The Indians showed signs of recovering from the early loss of opener Aakash Chopra but Gul, one of the four changes in the Pakistan side for this match, altered the complexion of the game with a controlled exhibition of seam bowling.

Yuvraj and Pathan, however, prevented a complete batting disaster by their heroic association.

The flamboyant Punjab youngster notched up his maiden Test century, an effort which came in 126 minutes and contained 15 boundaries and two sixes. Pathan, who has already shown his potential as a pace bowler, proved that he was no bunny with the bat and hit seven fours and a six.

It was paceman Mohammad Sami who fired the first salvo by evicting Chopra, trapping the opening batsman leg before wicket with a ball that came in sharply.

Both Shoaib Akhtar and Sami were guilty of being a little wayward initially which allowed the Indians to recover to some extent from the early setback.

Sehwag, who had become the first Indian to slam a triple century in the Multan Test, seemed to be in fine touch as he unleashed a barrage of shots to unsettle the Pakistani bowlers who tried a little too hard to bowl fast on the helpful track.

Both Sehwag and Dravid maintained a brisk scoring rate but the introduction of Gul produced instant result for the home team as he claimed the wickets of Sehwag and Tendulkar in quick succession to reduce India to 75 for three.

Gul induced the dangerous Sehwag to edge an away-going delivery to young wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal who replaced Moin Khan, suffering from a groin injury.

The lanky right-handed paceman then dealt a big blow on the Indians by sending back batting maestro Tendulkar, his first dismissal this year after unbeaten knocks in Sydney and Multan.

Tendulkar was adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Simon Taufel to a ball that came back in sharply after pitching.

The stylish VVS Laxman, who joined the action after Tendulkarís dismissal, also could not hang around for long falling victim to Gul. Laxman hit two superb boundaries before slashing at an away-going delivery to see Taufiq Umar take a catch in the slip cordon.

The Indian innings plunged into total disarray as they lost three quick wickets immediately after the lunch break. Dravid was the first to perish as he paid the price for fishing outside the off stump to an outgoing delivery from Gul and rival captain Inzamam latched on to a simple catch at first slip. In his next over, Gul removed Parthiv Patel, trapping the diminutive wicketkeeper batsman leg before wicket.

Yuvraj and Pathan frustrated the home team with their partnership before leg spinner Kaneria provided the breakthrough by taking a return catch to send back Pathan. ó PTI

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