M A I N   N E W S

Sachin falls near peak
Abhijit Chatterjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 10
Little master Sachin Tendulkar failed to scale cricket’s Mount Everest at the PCA Stadium at Mohali today, the third day of the opening match of the three-Test series against Pakistan. Playing an innings of concentration and dour defence, and strangely with very little strokeplay, Sachin fell short by just six runs of what would have been his 35th Test century, which would have made him the maker of the highest number of Test centuries. This would have also enabled him to overhaul the original little master Sunil Gavaskar’s effort of 34 centuries. But that was not to be.

Now Sachin will have to wait for yet another Test innings to fulfil his ambition of scaling cricket’s Everest. Also, he is still short of the 10,000-run mark in Test cricket, a mark crossed by only four batsmen in cricketing history But to cross these landmarks he will have to pull up his game and do much better than what he did today.

But in spite of Sachin’s failure, if one may call it so, India were in a commanding position at the end of play of day three at 447 for six, a lead of 135 runs with four wickets in hand. This was largely due to the efforts of Virender Sehwag, who not only scored 173 runs, but also shared three century partnerships in the course of the innings, one yesterday and two today.

More importantly, Sehwag showed that the Pakistani attack had nothing to bother the Indian batsmen. The fact the hosts could muster a mere 263 runs from 91 overs after such a blistering start yesterday was an opportunity missed for India.

But in spite of the brilliant start, Sachin and later skipper Sourav Ganguly made heavy weather of their job of picking up the runs and putting the opposition on the backfoot at a time when India needed quick runs to take the battle to the Pakistani camp. The Indians might well rue the fact that they could not score runs at a quicker pace when they needed it the most specially since the weather might well hold the key to the Test.

Sachin was never fully comfortable right through the 299 minutes that he batted today. True there were quite a few scorching strokes, specially the straight four off Abdul Razzaq, which took him from 20 to 24 in the course of his knock. But for most of the time, he was content to push and prod, very much unlike the master craftsman the Indians know.

And, more importantly, at Mohali today, not only did he fail to come up to the expectations of the near-capacity crowd, and the millions of cricket fans across the world, who must have been praying to see Sachin on top of cricket’s Everest, but also left them with a bad taste in the mouth. Instead of concentrating on his own batting, he found fault with the crowd, specially on the pavilion terrace, who in fact were cheering him on to his cricketing pinnacle.

However, the effort of the 26-year-old Sehwag not only saw India take on a sizeable lead over the visitors, who had scored 312 all out in their first innings, but also helped the hosts to expose the limited attack at the command of the Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. But it must go to the credit of the Pakistani bowlers that even when Sehwag was in full flow, they did not allow their shoulders to droop. And to add to their troubles, Sami sent down as many as 15 no-balls, a luxury they could ill-afford at this stage of the match.

The dominant role of Sehwag in the Indian innings could be gauged from the fact that in the pre-lunch session, when Sehwag was in full flow, the runs came at the rate of 4.32 per over, but in the post-lunch session, the run flow was restricted to just 2.26 runs per over.

That Sehwag meant business was absolutely clear right from the moment he came in to open the Indian batting yesterday. He treated the Pakistani bowlers, who were then operating in ideal conditions with utter contempt yesterday and continued in the same mould today.

Overnight 95 not out, he reached his century 10 minutes after play began this morning with a couple off Rana Naved to point. And once into into triple figures, his ninth in Test cricket, he simply waded into the Pakistani bowling. There was nothing that Inzamam could do to stop the rampaging Indian.

But just when it seemed that the Indian would simply gallop away, Rahul Dravid fell, caught by Asim Kamal at point off the bowling of Mohammad Sami. Not fully comfortable against the limited Pakistani attack, it took the Indian vice-captain 61 minutes to go from his overnight 39 to 50 (his 36th half-century in 87 matches). Rahul Dravid was stranded at 46 for quite some time as he faced 19 deliveries without picking up a single run. But Rahul was involved in a partnership of 103 runs for the second wicket with Sehwag and this laid the foundation of the Indian innings.

Sachin, as long as he batted with Sehwag, was among the runs, with his first 50 coming off 78 balls and included seven fours. His next 44 was worth a labour of 122 balls and nearly four hours. From his half century onwards, every next 10 runs took Tendulkar an average of 30 balls, which hurt India’s cause when they were looking to press ahead.

It was Sehwag’s departure, at 334, that effectively put the brakes on the Indian innings. Sehwag, trying to put the innings on a higher gear, tried to pull a Razzaq delivery outside the off stump, only to hole out to Yousuf Youhana at mid-on with his score reading 173 (352 minutes, 244 balls, 19 fours and two six as). And with his departure, the run rate fell dramatically.

Skipper Ganguly, generally a slow starter, missed an played quite a few before he finally fell in the final session, when he was caught at silly point off a persevering Kaneria, making 21 from 74 balls in 98 minutes with two fours.

India were to lose two more wickets in the extended session, which was played in the final hour under lights and heavy cloud cover.

Laxman, however, towards the close, gave a glimpse of return to form when he smashed Rana for three fours in an over in fading light. He batted for 122 minutes and faced 87 balls, hitting six fours. Giving him company was Irfan Pathan, on one.


Pakistan (1st innings): 312

India (1st innings)

Gambhir c Rana b Kaneria 41

Sehwag c Youhana b Razzaq 173

Dravid c Kamal b Sami 50

Tendulkar c Kamal b Rana 94

Ganguly c Butt b Kaneria 21

Laxman batting 33

Kaarthick c Rana b Sami 6

Pathan batting 1

Extras: (b-1, lb-5, nb-21, w-1) 28

Total: (six wkts, 131 overs) 447

Fall of wickets: 1-113, 2-216, 3-334, 4-381, 5-417, 6-444.

Bowling: Mohammad Sami 31-6-103-2, Rana Naved-ul Hasan 27-1-110-1, Abdul Razzaq 26-1-107-1, Danish Kaneria 47-11-121-2.

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