Afridi rattles up big century, Inzamam follows suit

GOING BERSERK: When Afridi is in such a murderous mood, bowlers have but little option as the Indians found to their dismay again on Sunday. Photo: S. Subramanium

GOING BERSERK: When Afridi is in such a murderous mood, bowlers have but little option as the Indians found to their dismay again on Sunday. Photo: S. Subramanium  

S. Dinakar

India begins reply on a confident but watchful note

Inzamam, hampered by a back problem, resumed his innings only at the fall of the sixth wicketKumble unlucky not to have added one more wicket to his tallyImran Farhat grassed a low offering from Sehwag

Faisalabad: The brief appearance proved long enough for Inzamam-ul-Haq, still gobbling up miles and milestones, to embrace his 25th Test hundred; along the journey his inimitable touch remains untouched.

The Pakistan captain, hampered by a back problem, resumed his innings only at the fall of the sixth wicket, but a delicate caress square off the wicket revealed the kind of form he is in.

Inzamam (119, 193b, 12x4, 1x6) duly kept his date with yet another century in a career of triumphs and the capacity crowd burst into celebration.

Pulse pounding

In the morning Shahid Afridi (156, 128b, 20x4, 6x6) had rocketed to his century with a pulled six off the hapless Irfan Pathan; Afridi's batting is a pulse-pounding ride really.

Irrespective of the placid nature of the wicket, the Indian batsmen find themselves in a situation where application is the need of the hour.

As the players walked off the field for the final time on Sunday, the second day of the second Allianz Test, India, replying to Pakistan's 588, was 110 for the loss of Virender Sehwag's wicket.

Skipper Rahul Dravid (46 batting, 100b, 7x4) and V.V.S. Laxman (28 batting, 83b, 4x4) have, in an unbeaten second wicket partnership, added 71 in 157 balls of watchful batting.

Dravid, apart from, displaying rock-solid defence, essayed some typically elegant strokes of his legs and through covers. The wristy and stylish Laxman was just getting into his stride.

Earlier in the day, the Indian pacemen attempted to hustle Afridi with short-pitched deliveries but the Pakistani is handling such methods better these days; he is not moving towards the leg-side, tries to keep his eyes on the ball and is decisive when he pulls and hooks. Before a final verdict is passed, he would have to be watched on a livelier track.

And Irfan Pathan, lacking in pace, was certainly not the right bowler to probe Afridi with such tactics. With the Kookuburra ball not swinging for him, the left-arm paceman should have stuck to the basics of line and length.

Afridi had reached his highest Test score when Yuvraj in the deep accepted his mistimed hit off Kumble.

"There is always so much passion in India-Pakistan matches. I play my natural game whether it is Test or an ODI. This is a good wicket to bat on. I would still rate my century in the Chennai Test (1999) as my best," said Afridi.

Problems with ball

The Indians bowlers once again encountered some problems with the Kookuburra ball. Afridi could relate to the difficulties of the bowlers - "The ball gets soft soon and it is not easy for the bowlers," he said. However, on a comparative scale, the Indians did fight better on day two in the field.

There was some reward for Kumble for his persistence. He could have added one more wicket to his three scalps had umpire Simon Toufel not negated an appeal when the ball went off Mohammad Asif's bat, and then boot before being held in the close-in cordon.

Pathan and Harbhajan continued to disappoint and suffer. But the impressive R.P. Singh secured his fourth wicket when he angled one across Abdul Razzaq, who made a confident 37, to find the edge. It was Zaheer Khan, though, who produced the ball of the innings. He cleverly went round the wicket to Inzamam, and opened up the Pakistan captain with the one that left him. Dhoni completed the dismissal. Zaheer has bowled well in the innings.

Asif impressive

One also likes the look of the young paceman Asif with the ball. He is slim, wiry, and bowls at a waspish pace. Asif used the crease well. He went close to the stumps while taking the ball away from the batsman and brought it into him from a wider angle. He appears a smart bowler and forced an edge in the corridor with the new ball from Dravid - a no mean feat given the Indian captain's judgment outside the off-stump - but the ball fell just short of wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal.

It was an engrossing contest when Shoiab Akhtar, with the capacity crowd behind him, thundered in. Virender Sehwag unleashed a smashing square-cut off the first delivery. Soon the Pakistani spearhead had Sehwag (on 12) edging one into the slip cordon, where Imran Farhat, substituting for Inzamam, grassed a low offering.

Sehwag responded by unleashing a couple of scintillating cover drives that screamed through the fielders. The Delhi batsman was slipping into his best form when he was snared by Razzaq.

On the face of it, Razzaq's selection appears a defensive move. Yet, there is a feeling here that the experienced Razzaq can instil discipline - an essential quality that was lacking in Lahore - into the attack. He moves the new ball away from the bat, and achieves reverse swing when the sphere becomes old.

And he prised out Sehwag with an outstanding piece of bowling. The ball, just around Sehwag's off-stump, bounced more than expected, kissed the willow and Farhat made no mistake, this time, with a shoulder high catch. This was a huge wicket for Pakistan.

"Making my Test debut against Pakistan was special. Rahul (Dravid) and Sachin (Tendulkar) came up to me offering advice and that helped. It is a good feeling to get four wickets on this pitch. Pakistan has a good batting line-up and Inzamam is a great player," R.P. Singh said after his effort.


Pakistan - 1st innings: S. Malik c Dravid b Singh 19, S. Butt c Dhoni b Zaheer 37, Younis c Yuvraj b Singh 83, M. Yousuf c Dhoni b Singh 65, Inzamam c Dhoni b Zaheer 119, S. Afridi c Yuvraj b Kumble 156, A. Razzaq c Dhoni b Singh 37, K. Akmal c Sehwag b Kumble 0, S. Akhtar c Harbhajan b Zaheer 47, M. Asif (not out) 6, D. Kaneria b Kumble 0. Extras (b-3, lb-4, w-3, nb-9): 19. Total (in 136.2 overs): 588.

Fall of wickets: 1-49, 2-65, 3-207, 4-216, 5-467, 6-469, 7-509, 8-567, 9-584.

India bowling: Pathan 19-4-106-0 (nb-1), R.P. Singh 25-3-89-4 (nb-1, w-2), Zaheer 32-7-135-3 (nb-3, w-1), Harbhajan 25-1-101-0 (nb-2), Kumble 35.2-5-150-3 (nb-2).

India - 1st innings: V. Sehwag c (sub) b Razzaq 31, R. Dravid (batting) 46, V.V.S. Laxman (batting) 28. Extras (lb-1, nb-4): 5. Total (for one wkt. In 37 overs): 110.

Fall of wicket: 1-39.

Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 9-3-29-0, Asif 11-3-30-0 (nb-2), Razzaq 7-0-28-1 (nb-2), Kaneria 9-2-21-0, Afridi 1-0-1-0.

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