Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Apr 15, 2004

About Us
Contact Us
News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |

Sport - Cricket Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Dravid in his element again

By S. Dinakar

Pakistan 224
India 342 for four

RAWALPINDI, APRIL 14. Rahul Dravid raised his arms in triumph, looked up towards the skies and savoured a moment that meant much to the team and himself. He will remember his 17th Test hundred for long. With Pakistan unable to breach the Wall, India moved to a position of strength on the second day of the third Samsung Test at the Pindi Cricket ground on Wednesday, scoring 342 for four, gaining a lead of 118 runs.

The Indians rattled up 319 runs for the loss of just three wickets in the day, the innings revolving around Dravid (134 not out, 314b, 19x4), who arrived at the crease to face the second ball of the innings and dug in deep, bringing to the fore his fierce focus, technical purity and judicious stroke selection.

Importantly, Dravid was involved in three critical partnerships: 128 for the second wicket with Parthiv Patel (69), 131 for the fourth with Laxman (71) and an unbroken 81 for the fifth with skipper Sourav Ganguly (53 not out).

If Dravid and Patel saw a crucial morning session through, the Karnataka batsman and Laxman prevented a Pakistani surge in the post-lunch session after the home team had struck two quick blows. And then the vice-captain and the captain took a heavy toll of a tired attack in the post-tea phase.

The Indians turned in a disciplined and extremely positive batting display, with Patel donning the opener's hat, performing a fine job, Laxman stroking the ball fluently and Ganguly, in his first innings of the series, finding his timing with ease, evident in a lovely off-drive off Mohammed Sami.

Dravid, extremely conscious of his record away from home, reached his century — his first Test hundred in Pakistan — turning leg-spinner Danish Kaneria to square-leg. In the process, he also shrugged away his indifferent form in the series.

Yasir Hameed's miss at point when he put down an uppish square-cut by Dravid while he was on 71, off Sami, might turn out to be the defining moment of the Test. As the day wore on and the arena was filled with sunshine, the pitch eased out too. It must be said, though, that the Indians have batted much better than the Pakistanis did on day one.

In the morning, on a surface still aiding seam movement, Dravid knew he had to get well forward to counter the movement and his forward defensive stroke is one of the great sights in contemporary cricket — his body weight beautifully distributed, head perfectly still, and bat firmly behind the line of the ball.

This was a day when, blending caution with aggression, Dravid essayed some lovely strokes on both sides of the wicket when the bowlers erred, striking the ball gloriously in the arc between point and cover, leaning into his drive off Akhtar, punching Sami off the back-foot, hooking Akbar and using his feet to stroke Kaneria through the on-side.

He also received the benefit of doubt on 77 when there was an appeal for caught behind off Kaneria with the ball bouncing off Dravid's boot even as he attempted a flick. The decision was referred to the third umpire.

With Fazl-e-Akbar, despite forcing Patel to edge one outside the off-stump to wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal to pouch a smart catch soon after lunch, falling short of expectations, Inzamam had problems with the management of overs. For most part after lunch, he used Akhtar and Sami in shorts bursts from the Press Box end, while alternating between Akbar and Kaneria from the other. However, with Akbar neither possessing the pace nor a consistent off-stump line and movement to trouble the Indians, and Kaneria unable to strike, it meant there was pressure only from one end. Pakistan desperately missed Umar Gul's `corridor' bowling.

Akhtar's fiery spell

It was a day when Akhtar, amidst some indications that his action might come under the scanner again, bowled with passion and fire. He unleashed a beast of a delivery after lunch to have Sachin Tendulkar edging a shoulder high ball around the off-stump to Akmal, hit Dravid on the gloves with a wickedly rising delivery and castled Laxman with a full toss of blinding pace before falling down while releasing the ball and having to leave the field with an injured thumb in his left hand.

Later in the day, Asim Kamal, fielding at short-leg, had to leave the field after being struck by a Ganguly pull.

It was a critical stage of the game when Laxman joined Dravid in the post-lunch session. Pakistan had struck two quick blows and the Indians had to get a partnership going.

Laxman had to put behind a lean trot in the series, but he dealt with the situation in a positive fashion, moving his left foot forward rather than getting caught on the crease.

It was a cracking 99-ball 71 from Laxman, who has this rare ability to dismiss the good deliveries to the fence and find the gaps with effortless ease. Those caresses through the covers, those delectable flicks, those majestic straight hits, and those scorching pulls — they were all there as the Hyderabadi crafted a lovely innings before playing across an Akhtar full toss.

The morning session was always going to be crucial and Dravid and Patel were equal to the challenge. Inzamam began the proceedings with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami, with the latter being used from the Press Box end since, due the variable bounce from this side, he could be effective with his skiddish pace.

Sami did have two confident shouts for leg-before against Dravid turned down, with the second appeal when the Indian vice-captain was beaten by a quick off-cutter, being a very near thing.

Patel shows character

Patel survived a testing phase when Akhtar probed him with short-pitched deliveries and then played some pleasing strokes square of the wicket on the off-side. Opening the innings in as big a match as this one against Akhtar and Sami must have been a huge call for a nineteen-year old but Patel, beneath his youthful exterior, possesses a steely resolve.

The last few months have not been easy for Patel — there have been several calls for his omission — but the team management has continued to back him because he possesses a heart that is much larger than his tiny frame.

The left-hander played close to his body, presented a stout defensive bat and, when the opportunity presented itself, unleashed some fine shots, like a crisp straight drive off Fazl-e-Akbar.

He thumped Akbar to the point fence, and reached his half-century with a dab to the third man region off the same bowler. The think-tank's decision to send Patel as opener after all the speculation had paid off.

It was nothing short of a victory for Patel when he walked back with Dravid, who had guided him, with the Indian score at 119 for one. It had been a barren session for Pakistan, even as India added 96 runs. The Test match had swung India's way.

PAKISTAN — 1st innings: 224

INDIA — 1st innings

V. Sehwag c Hameed b Akhtar0
P. Patel c Akmal b Akbar69
(141b, 10x4)
R. Dravid (batting)

(314b, 19x4)

S. Tendulkar c Akmal

b Akhtar

V.V.S. Laxman b Akhtar71
(99b, 12x4)
S. Ganguly (batting)53
(72b, 8x4)
Extras (b-6, lb-7, w-1)14
— —
Total (for four wkts.) 342
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Sehwag), 2-129 (Patel), 3-130 (Tendulkar), 4-261 (Laxman).

Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 21.2-7-47-3, Akbar 26.4-2-114-1, Kaneria 32-2-86-0, Sami 22-6-72-0 (w-1), Farhat 3-1-10-0.

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail


News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Classifieds | Employment | Obituary | Updates: Breaking News |

News Update

The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |

Copyright 2004, The Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu