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Sehwag shines on rain-hit day
Abhijit Chatterjee
Tribune News Service

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has a word with Abdul Razzaq during the second day’s play of the first Test in Mohali
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has a word with Abdul Razzaq during the second day’s play of the first Test in Mohali on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh, March 9
There are very few superlatives which one can use to describe Virender Sehwag’s batting when he is in full flow. Very few bowlers can contain the Indian opener when he is determined to make his bat do the talking. A player of his nature makes little distinction whether he is playing Test cricket or an one-dayer. He bats in his natural style. A batsman like him has only one motto. The ball is there to be hit.

And today, the second day of the opening Test between India and Pakistan at the PCA Stadium at Mohali, he put the Pakistani attack to the sword with an unbeaten 95 as India ended a truncated day of play with 184 on the board off 40 overs for the loss of Gautam Gambhir’s wicket. This was in reply to the Pakistani first innings total of 312 on the opening day of the Test yesterday.

Play on the third day of the Test will begin half an hour early than scheduled, that is at 9.30 a.m., to make up for the time lost on the second day.

Sehwag batted for 166 minutes, faced 121 balls and hit 12 fours and a six. Giving him company at the draw of stumps was Rahul Dravid, 39 not out, who occupied the crease for 86 minutes and hit six fours from 80 balls. The two added 71 runs for the unbeaten second wicket partnership. The Indians are just short of 128 runs from the Pakistani total and with so much Indian batting yet to come, the woes of the visitors are far from over. If the weather holds, and their is a big if over it, the game could well be heading the hosts’ way.

Of course, Pakistan only added to their problems by dropping Virender, not once but twice in the course of play. In fact, at the end of the day, the Pakistanis must be ruing the fact that their new ball bowlers, both Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved, could not make any use of the heavy conditions after a slow, but persistent, drizzle saw three hours and 40 minutes of play being lost on the second day of play. And at the end of the day, bad light robbed the Indian batsmen of a further 10 overs as the two umpires decided that even the floodlights of the stadium were not enough for the game to continue.

The first time Sehwag was dropped was when he was on 15 with the India total reading 22 by Taufeeq Umar standing at second slip. As a Mohammad Sami delivery just grazed the ball and flew to the Pakistani fielder at second slip, he fumbled with the ball before flooring it. It was straight-forward chance which should have been taken at this level of the game.

Sehwag got his second chance also in the slip area and this time the culprit was Pakistani vice-captain Younis Khan. The Indian opener went forward to Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who among all the bowlers did make an effort to contain the rampaging Indian batsmen, and got a thin edge, but Younis was unable to hold. At this stage Sehwag was on 82 and the Indian total read 157 for one.

The Pakistani bowlers had no answer to the onslaught by Sehwag as he raced to his 50, his ninth in Test cricket, off just 49 deliveries. The Pakistan skipper, already hampered by the absence of Shoaib Akhtar, just did not know how to stop the Indians. The umpires’ decision to stop play must have come as a big relief to Inzamam-ul-Haq, who one thought failed miserable to marshal his limited resources well. At one point of the Indian innings when Rana was bowling, he left the cover region vacant and only after Sehwag had picked up a couple of fours did he think it prudent to post a fielder there.

The only Pakistani bowler who bowled with some sort of authority was leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who was called to bowl when the Indian innings was only 10 overs old. The right-arm spinner did move the ball appreciably, but then if his fielders were going to drop catches, how could he force the Indians on to the defensive?

In fact, it was he who tasted the only success for Pakistan when he forced Gautam Gambhir to hole out to Naved Rana at mid-on as the Indian opener miscued an attempted drive. Gautam contributed 41 (78 minutes, 46 ball, seven fours) and shared an opening stand of 113 with Sehwag.

India began their innings on a rollicking note as Gambhir steered Sami for a four off the very first delivery of the Indian innings while on the other end Sehwag himself set the scoreboard moving with a streaky four past the slip and gully cordon off Rana Naved. And then Sehwag got into his stride as he treated Rana with utter contempt as he picked up four past point and then as the Pakistani bowler pitched short, hoisted him over the ropes over third man for the first six of the match.

When Gambhir picked up a single off Sami, the most expensive of the Pakistani bowlers today, the 50 of the India innings came in just 8.3 overs with Sehwag contributing 39 and Gambhir eight. This was heady stuff indeed which the crowd, which swelled once play got under way, appreciated.

Sehwag played an innings reminiscent of his 79 in the first one-day international against Pakistan at Karachi and a triple century against the same opponents in the Multan Test last year. In five innings of four Tests against Pakistan, Sehwag now has 533 runs at over 100 average with two centuries.


Pakistan (first innings): 312

India (first innings):

Gambhir c Naved b Kaneria 41

Sehwag batting 95

Dravid batting 39

Extras (b-1, lb-1, nb-7) 9

Total (1wkt, 40 overs) 184

Fall of wicket: 1-113.

Bowling: Mohammed Sami 8-1-55-0, Rana Naved 10-1-49-0, Abdul Razzaq 9-0-41-0, Danish Kaneria 13-2-37-1.

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