M A I N   N E W S

Seamers send Pak packing
Abhijit Chatterjee
Tribune News Service

Irfan Pathan exults after snaring Yousuf Youhana during the first day’s play of the first Test in Mohali on Tuesday.
Irfan Pathan exults after snaring Yousuf Youhana during the first day’s play of the first Test in Mohali on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh, March 8
Indian medium-pacer Laxmipathy Balaji signalled his return to Test cricket with a career-best figure of five for 76 as Pakistan, after losing three quick wickets before lunch with only 89 runs on the board, did well to recover to end day one of the first Test against India at the PCA Stadium at Mohali today at 312 all out.

Pakistan should be thankful to a remarkable innings of 91 by southpaw Asim Kamal for the turnaround in their fortunes. The 312 might not a be a total which Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer might have been looking for before the match began, but nevertheless it was much better than what the picture was at the halfway stage of their innings.

The stylish middle-order batsman from Karachi, Asim Kamal, who made his Test debut against South Africa in 2003, almost single-handedly saved Pakistan from the blushes with an innings of a lifetime. Unlucky to miss out on a century for the second time around in his international career, he was the penultimate Pakistani batsman to be out, the fourth victim of Balaji. Balaji, operating with the second new ball, uprooted his off stump as Kamal went for a big hit, knowing fully well that at that point of time his options were limited, with only Danish Kaneria to give him support. But till then his innings was blemishless.

No Indian bowler could make an impression on Asim Kamal. His fours, specially those executed between cover and extra cover, were finely timed, giving the Indian fielders little time to react. He did share a fine 52-run partnership with his skipper Imzamam-ul-Haq for the fifth wicket, the second-best stand of the innings, but with the departure of the Pakistani skipper, one of the two victims of Anil Kumble of the day, Kamal had only the tailenders for company as he brought about some respectability to the Pakistan innings.

Balaji, returning to Test cricket after a long lay-off due to as pelvic injury, having last turned out for India against Pakistan in Pakistan last April, bowled with his tail up on a helpful pitch as he returned career-best figures of five for 76 to redeem the decision of the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly to field first after he had won the toss. Balaji, who became a sort of superstar in the three-match series against Pakistan in Pakistan, improved upon his Rawalpindi performance, where he had figures of four for 63.

The Tamil Nadu medium-pacer, who bowled first change after Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan opened the Indian attack, took some time to settle down. The Pakistani opener Taufeeq Umar took two fours, a straight hit to the fence and an extra cover drive, off him before he became Balaji’s first victim.

Taufeeq was the only Pakistani batsman after Kamal and Imzamam who showed some sort of authority with the bat. He shared a 59-run partnership, the best of the innings with his skipper, but the other Pakistani batsmen had little in their reserves to tackle the Indian bowling.

The Indian medium-pacers did get a lot of help from the strip which had a fair amount of grass on it, quite unlike what it was during the last Test played between India and New Zealand at the same venue.

In fact, it was the grass which prompted India to go in with three medium-pacers and only one regular spinner. And the Indian bowlers were backed by some good fielding. The Indian skipper handled his bowlers well and brought good bowling changes as India tried to grab the initiative on the opening day itself.

But even on a day dominated by the Indian medium-pacers, Anil Kumble sent down 22 overs, during which he snared two Pakistan wickets at a cost of 76 runs. His biggest victim was undoubtedly the Pakistani skipper Inzamam, who was trapped in front of the wicket, after he had compiled a well-made 57 (159 minutes, 92 balls, seven fours).

It goes to the credit of the Indian medium-pacers that throughout the day they did not waver in length. But in the early stage of the innings, they let fly quite a few deliveries wide of the off stump. This gave the Pakistani batsmen some breathing space, but even then they had few answers to the Indians.


Pakistan (1st innings)

Butt b Pathan 5

Umar b Balaji 44

Younis Khan lbw Zaheer 9

Haq lbw Kumble 57

Youhana c Kaarthick b Pathan 6

Kamal b Balaji 91

Razzaq c Kaarthick b Balaji 26 

Akmal c Dravid b Kumble 15

Sami b Balaji 20

Rana Naved lbw Balaji 11

Kaneria not out 8

Extras (b-11, lb-5, nb-3, w-1) 20 Total (all out, 86.4 overs) 312

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-30, 3-89, 4-104, 5-156, 6-191, 7-239, 8-282, 9-303.

Bowling: Pathan 23-5-68-2, Zaheer 17-1-70-1, Balaji 20.4-5-76-5, Kumble 22-6-76-2, Ganguly 2-0-3-0, Sehwag 2-1-3-0.

Musharraf for cricket series?

Mohali, March 8
It is understood that the Indian Government has decided to invite Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to watch any of the matches of the current Indo-Pak cricket series. The Ministry of External Affairs has been asked to contact their counterpart in Islamabad in this regard. — PTI

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