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Not a happy day for Pakistan

By Rakesh Rao

BIRTHDAY BOY GETS HIS DUE: Inzamam-ul-Haq doffs his helmet responding to the crowd's greetings on his way back to the pavilion. — AP

DHARAMSALA, MARCH 3. Happiness is a state of mind. It can take a good reason and a lot of effort to make a person happy. Still there is no assurance that at the end of the day, the individual in question will be as pleased, as intended.

On Thursday, the man in question was Inzamam-ul-Haq. The occasion was his 35th birthday. No effort was spared by the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association to make it `sweet' and memorable. If one section of crowd repeatedly sang "Happy Birthday to you," the other put up a banner to wish Inzamam. The organisers ordered thousands of ladoos from Jalandhar for a 10,000 capacity crowd that thronged the Dharamsala Stadium to witness the hill station's first day of international cricket.

Still, at the end of the day, Inzamam looked far from happy. His batsmen had let him down badly and he himself had failed to last the day.

A closing score of 165 for five in 45 overs was clearly not Pakistan's idea of a good workout ahead of the first Test beginning at Mohali on March 8. Inzamam did well to win the toss but Pakistan could not make the most of it against some ordinary bowling by the young aspirants.

Only left-hander Asim Kamal came out with his head held high after his unfinished 68-ball 43, inclusive of eight boundaries. He had raised 72 runs for the fifth wicket with Inzamam. Opener Taufeeq Umar failed to capitalise on a good start when he fell for an impressive 37, with five hits to the fence. Inzamam, comfortable for 103 minutes and showing little respect to the bowling, hit six boundaries before falling to the off-spin of Y. Venugopala Rao.

Earlier, following a delayed start of 50 minutes due to poor light, play was possible for 2.4 overs, spread over 10 minutes. The light deteriorated and play could not resume until 70 minutes after lunch. Later, play was extended by half hour on a day when a total of 152 minutes was lost.

Pitch factor

If Pakistan was far from pleased with its batting display, the pitch had a lot to do with it. It lacked bounce and as a result, the ball was not exactly coming on to the bat. As long as the ball was new and hard, runs flew from the bat of openers Salman Butt and Umar.

The breakthrough for the home team came soon after the openers had raised 50 runs in 10 overs. An aggressive Butt failed to beat Rao's throw from deep square-leg in his bid to return to the non-striker's end. A little earlier, Butt had offered a hard return chance to off-spinner Ramesh Powar.

Within minutes of Butt's fall, the joy of the Board President's XI stood doubled. New-man Younis Khan was pouched by Dheeraj Jadhav at second slip. Yousuf Youhana and Umar saw Pakistan through to a re-scheduled tea break by raising the total to 83 for two. On resumption, Youhana, after looking good to dominate the bowling, inside-edged Shib Shankar Paul to give Parthiv Patel a low catch on the leg-side.

As though it was not enough for Pakistan, Umar's bat-and-pad offering was taken low at short mid-wicket by Kaif off R.P. Singh.

Among the bowlers, medium-pacers R.P. Singh and Gagandeep faltered with their line and length. As a result, both were punished with disdain. Paul bowled reasonably well while Rao had a bonus in the shape of Inzamam's wicket.

The scores:

Pakistan — 1st innings: S. Butt (run out) 21, T. Umar c Kaif b R.P. Singh 37, Younis Khan c Jadhav b Gagandeep 0, Y. Youhana c Patel b Paul 18, Inzamam lbw b Rao 35, A. Kamal (batting) 43, A. Razzaq (batting) 2. Extras (b-5, lb-2, nb-2) 9. Total (for five wkts. in 45 overs) 165.

Fall of wickets: 1-54, 2-55, 3-83, 4-83, 5-155.

Board President's XI bowling: R.P. Singh 13-3-50-1, Gagandeep 15-3-40-1, R. Powar 4-0-22-0, S.S. Paul 8-2-23-1, Y. Venugopala Rao 5-0-23-1.

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