SPORT

India moves closer to victory

SHEER DELIGHT: Anil Kumble is ecstatic after trapping Inzamam-ul-Haq in front. — Photo: S. Subramanium  

SHEER DELIGHT: Anil Kumble is ecstatic after trapping Inzamam-ul-Haq in front. — Photo: S. Subramanium

MOHALI, MARCH 11. The long, despairing walk back, it appeared, would never end. Inzamam-ul-Haq was a shattered man when he headed for the pavilion and as the captain of a side struggling to stay afloat, his dejection was understandable.

There was not much doubt about the leg-before wicket verdict itself — Inzamam had stretched forward but the Anil Kumble delivery went straight through after pitching and was heading towards the stumps — however the Pakistan captain was disappointed with himself for not carrying on.

Despite a majestic 86 from Inzamam, which reflected his ability to pick the length of the ball early, India moved closer to victory in the first TVS Cup Test at the PCA Stadium here with Pakistan finishing the fourth day at 257 for six in its second innings, just 53 runs ahead of India.

The contest is not over yet with a circumspect Abdul Razzaq and a spunky Kamran Akmal at the crease, but India would have to play ordinary cricket from this point to let Pakistan salvage an unlikely draw.

Paceman Lakshmipathy Balaji — in the midst of a dream come-back Test — jolted Pakistan with the new ball and then, steaming in the last phase of the day, captured the crucial wicket of Asim Kamal (48), who looked increasingly confident after being reprieved twice early on by Rahul Dravid at slip off Kumble; the southpaw paid the price for attempting a stroke across the line.

And Kumble, who brought into play his experience and subtle variations, prised out an ominous looking Yousuf Youhana (68) with a mild leg-break which found the inside edge before rolling on to the stumps.

Kaneria scalps six

In the morning, Pakistan's Danish Kaneria claimed six for 150, as India was bowled out for 516.

Pakistan, which had to face 13 overs before lunch, saw its fragile top-order being exposed again. Ganguly too got it right when he had Pathan and the in-form Balaji sharing the new ball and forming a left-right combination.

Balaji provided the opening breakthrough when his off-cutter bounced off Taufeeq Umar's pads, hit the underside of the bat and looped back to his hands. Then, Younis Khan, in a daze, inexplicably, offered no shot to a delivery released wide of the crease and saw the furniture being rearranged.

Salman Butt ducked into a short-pitched delivery from Pathan but made the basic mistake of hanging his bat out. Pakistan, behind by 204, was tottering at 10 for three. Pathan finished a lively first spell of 5-1-14-1, but Balaji continued his burst after lunch and could have consumed Inzamam-ul-Haq had Ganguly put in place a third slip.

Much-improved bowler

Balaji, whose opening spell read 10-2-42-2, is a much-improved bowler. Crucially, he is gathering momentum with his run-up, which is blending well with his action. The pacemen is using the non-bowling arm well as a load-up lever, and since his wrist position is upright now, he is hitting the seam more.

Balaji always had a productive off-cutter, but the fact that he can seam the ball away from the right-hander these days, has given a cutting edge to his bowling. During the afternoon, he also attempted to use the crease and try out different angles — a good sign in a budding paceman.

For Pakistan, the two senior batsmen, Inzamam and Youhana, once again found themselves in a crisis situation; Youhana walked in at No 4 in a minor shuffle in the order, and the two senior cricketers responded positively to the situation. Inzamam was glorious when he cover-drove Balaji, on-drove Zaheer, who struggled to settle into a rhythm with an older ball, and thumped Kumble over his head. Youhana whacked Zaheer down the ground and whipped Pathan past mid-wicket.

Inzamam reached his half-century in only 53 deliveries and during their 139-run partnership, Youhana and Inzamam, also registered their eighth century stand for the fourth wicket, the most hundred partnerships by any one pair for this wicket.

Brave customer

Kaneria too was a hero on this day. Creditably, for someone who sent down 53.4 overs in marathon spells, his bowling retained an element of bite till the end. Kaneria gets his leg-spinners to turn and bounce, and possesses a rather deceptive googly and a useful flipper. He is a brave customer too and for long periods did not have a mid-wicket for the right-hander, daring them to strike him against the spin.

The leg-spinner drew out Irfan Pathan and had him stumped with a delivery that spun away from the left-hander. Balaji, wisely promoted, enjoyed slices of luck during a breeze 31 before being prised out by a Kaneria leg-break. And Laxman's half-century, which arrived when he needed to deliver, ended when he dragged a Kaneria googly on to his stumps. It was an elegant effort, with strokes on both sides of the wicket.

Unchanged squad

Meanwhile, India has named an unchanged 14 for the second Test, beginning in Kolkata on March 16. Announcing this, BCCI secreatary Mr. S.K. Nair said the injury to V.V.S. Laxman — he was hit near his elbow by an Asim Kamal shot on Friday while fielding close in — was not serious.

He also said two practice games would be played at the renovated Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi next week to gauge the venue's preparedness to stage the final ODI of the six-match series on April 17.

"If the ground is found unsuitable, the match would be shifted to Nagpur," he said.

Scoreboard

PAKISTAN: — 1st innings: 312
INDIA — 1st innings
G. Gambhir c Rana b Kaneria 41
(46b, 7x4)
V. Sehwag c Youhana b Razzaq 173
(244b, 19x4, 2x6)
R. Dravid c Kamal b Sami 50
(117b, 7x4)
S. Tendulkar c Kamal b Rana 94
(202b, 11x4)
S. Ganguly c Butt b Kaneria 21
(74b, 2x4)
V.V.S. Laxman b Kaneria 58
(125b, 9x4)
D. Kaarthick c Rana b Sami 6
(22b)
I. Pathan st. Kamal b Kaneria 13
(34b, 1x4)
L. Balaji c Akmal b Kaneria 31
(36b, 4x4)
A. Kumble (not out) 1
(5b)
Zaheer c & b Kaneria 0
(2b)
Extras (b-1, 1b-5, nb-21, w-1) 28
— —
Total (in 147.4 overs) 516
— —

Fall of wickets: 1-113 (Gambhir), 2-216 (Dravid), 3-334 (Sehwag), 4-381 (Ganguly), 5-417 (Tendulkar), 6-444 (Kaarthick), 7-465 (Pathan), 8-507 (Balaji), 9-516 (Laxman).

b Pathan

PAKISTAN BOWLING
O M R W
Sami 36 6 120 2
Rana 32 1 133 1
Razzaq 26 1 107 1
Kaneria 53.4 12 150 6
PAKISTAN — 2nd innings
S. Butt c Kaarthick b Pathan 5
(12b)
T. Umar c & b Balaji 4
(3b, 1x4)
Y. Khan b Balaji 1
(5b)
Y. Youhana b Kumble 68
(145b, 12x4)
Inzamam lbw b Kumble 86
(105b, 10x4, 1x6)
A. Kamal lbw b Balaji 48
(87b, 6x4, 1x6)
A. Razzaq (batting) 22
(75b, 2x4)
K. Akmal (batting) 9
(13b, 1x4)
Extras (b-2, 1b-10, nb-1, w-1) 14
— —
Total (for six wkts., in 74 overs) 257
— —

Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Umar), 2-10 (Khan), 3-10 (Butt), 4-149 (Inzamam), 5-193 (Youhana), 6-243 (Kamal).

INDIA BOWLING
O M R W
Pathan 14 3 45 1
Balaji 17 3 67 3
Kumble 28 4 76 2
Zaheer 12 0 45 0
Tendulkar 3 0 12 0