Karachi: One of the immediate requirements for the Indian team is a bowler with genuine pace who can hustle and strike even after the pitch loses its early moisture content and liveliness. Coach Greg Chappell has said there was a pressing need for India to have in its ranks a bowler with some speed and bounce. He called it the next step forward for the side.
On the same surface where the faster and taller Pakistani bowlers obtained appreciable lift, the Indian trio of Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh suffered in comparison. They disappointed and Pakistan prospered.
While India, dismissed for 238, performed reasonably well to restrict Pakistan's lead to just seven runs, the bowlers proved a let down.
0The host was 173 for two in its second innings and enters the third day of the final Allianz Test 180 runs ahead. India, that had the opposition reeling at 39 for six on day one, faces an uphill climb. This game is all about grabbing chances.
With the Test in the balance, Pakistan's left-handed opening pair of Salman Butt and Imran Farhat handled the pressure situation in a manner that was positive, even if the Indian bowling was no more than mediocre.
Farhat, a free-stroking customer on the off-side, revived his Test career with an 87-ball 57 (10x4) that also contained some full-blooded pulls; he eventually fell to this stroke, top-edging Pathan to
mid-wicket. Butt (53, 74b, 10x4) is a compact batsman with a technique that is reasonably well honed. The southpaw appeared set for a bigger score when he fell leg-before Sourav Ganguly. The 109-run first wicket partnership was timely for Pakistan.
Then, Younis Khan (25 batting) and Mohammed Yousuf (30 batting) took Pakistan to a position from where it has an opportunity to dictate the flow of the game. Although Ganguly bowled well, India desperately missed a specialist right-arm paceman who could take the ball away from the right-hander on a consistent basis.
Yousuf, who was involved in a collision with Sachin Tendulkar at the non-striker's end while completing a quick single, became the fifth Pakistani batsman to cross 5000 runs in Test cricket. India team media manager G.S. Walia said the injury to Tendulkar (he was struck close to his neck by Youhana's boot) was not serious.
Earlier, Ganguly promised much during his 34 (53b, 6x4) but then succumbed in a manner that was tame; choosing to pull a delivery angled across his body from Razzaq and finding the lone man in the arc between fine-leg and square-leg.
India needed to preserve wickets in the first hour and Ganguly and Yuvraj batted with a blend of caution and aggression. Working up pace, Akhtar went round the wicket and bounced at Ganguly but the former captain handled the short-pitched barrage adequately. When Akhtar erred in line Ganguly pounded him square off the wicket.
Yuvraj (45, 74b, 8x4) batted confidently at the other end, cover-driving Mohammed Asif with typical panache.
There has been a marked improvement in the left-hander's foot-work and in his front-foot play. The fifth wicket pair had added 81 runs; an invaluable partnership when the Pakistani pacemen were threatening to run over the Indian line-up.
The key to playing on a seaming track is decisive feet movement and judgment outside the off-stump. It has already been seen during the match that playing straight and driving down the ground, if the ball is pitched up, is often the best option. The horizontal bat strokes - the cut and the pull - have been productive here but the batsmen needed to wait for an error in length.
Yuvraj and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were threatening to construct a sizable partnership when both fell in quick succession. Yuvraj's high back-lift proved a hurdle as his bat came down slightly late to a delivery pitching on the leg-stump from Asif; he was adjudged leg-before.
Asif is a deceptive bowler of waspish pace and two-way seam movement. He bowled better with the wind, maintained the pressure on the Indian batsmen, and there was no drop in his intensity during longish spells. The wiry paceman has certainly added to the Pakistani attack.
Asif did trouble Dhoni (13) with his away movement. It was Razzaq, though, who snared the wicket-keeper batsman when the Indian ventured into an ambitious cover-drive to a delivery hitting the seam. And Akhtar returned to trap Anil Kumble leg-before with a short of a length ball that zipped back sharply.
The talented Pathan and a determined Zaheer Khan put together 56 for the ninth wicket. Pathan (on zero) was put down in the slip cordon by Younis when he edged a drive off Razzaq. The left-hander was reprieved again on six, when Mohammed Asif at the point boundary reacted slowly; the Pakistani fielding and catching was below par.
But Pathan (40, 51b, 6x4, 1x6) also swung Akhtar over the square-leg fence when the Pakistani spearhead bounced at him from round the wicket, and drove the pacemen through the off-side.
In a well-thought out move, Younis Khan introduced Shahid Afridi's leg-spin and had a man on the sweeper cover fence. Pathan fell for the bait.
Pakistan - 1st innings: 245.
India - 1st innings: V.V.S. Laxman b Asif 19; R. Dravid c Akmal b Asif
3; V. Sehwag c Akmal b Akhtar 5; S. Tendulkar b Razzaq 23; S. Ganguly c Asif b Razzaq 34; Y. Singh lbw b Asif 45; M.S. Dhoni c Akmal b Razzaq 13; I. Pathan c Yousuf b Afridi 40; A. Kumble lbw b Akhtar 7; Zaheer Khan c Akmal b Asif 21; R.P. Singh (not out) 0; Extras (b-8, lb-3, nb-17): 28; Total (54.1 overs): 238.
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-14, 3-56, 4-56, 5-137, 6-165, 7-165, 8-181, 9-237.
Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 16-3-70-2; Asif 19.1-1-78-4, Razzaq 16-3-67-3, Afridi 3-0-12-1.
Pakistan - 2nd innings: S. Butt lbw b Ganguly 53; I. Farhat c Tendulkar b Pathan 57; Y. Khan (batting) 25; M. Yousuf (batting) 30; Extras (b-2, lb-3, nb-3): 8; Total (for two wkts in 38 overs): 173.
Fall of wickets: 1-109, 2-122.
India bowling: Pathan 10-1-39-1; Zaheer 10-1-44-0; R.P. Singh 8-0-38-0; Ganguly 6-0-22-1; Kumble 4-0-25-0.