SPORT

Making batting look an easy task

There are days when the cricket ball picks on a particular fielder and chases him relentlessly. Tendulkar happened to be the target on the second day, as he dived, scampered across the turf and chased hard in order to save some runs for his side.

The century makers, Younis Khan and Youhana, repeatedly picked up runs by playing behind square on the off side against both the Indian spinners.

They were adept in playing the ball late and picking the gaps as intended but still the Indian spinners were guilty of bowling short and wide, thereby providing the opportunity to the batsmen.

Younis Khan made his presence felt at the Eden Gardens with some sensible batting. His partnership with Youhana pushed the Indians on the defensive and the contrast in their batting styles made it interesting viewing. Younis Khan, desperately in need of a big score, looked to pick singles by nudging the ball around. He showed deft touch as he repeatedly played fine through the off side.

On a pitch that was on the slower side, Khan opted to stay on the back foot, and punished the short deliveries with relish. Younis Khan completed his century and though the shot that got him there may be hastily forgotten, the landmark will not be.

Youhana made batting look easy on a placid track with majestic shots all round the wicket. He was severe on Kumble, which forced the leg spinner to consistently change his line of attack. In a quest to provide a breakthrough, the Indian spinners tried too hard without settling down to a rhythm. Even Kumble, whose forte is patience, kept changing his line of attack and the angle far too frequently and as a result both Youhana and Younis Khan handled him without any discomfort.

Under pressure

Harbhajan Singh was bound to be under pressure for more reasons than one. He sat out at Mohali and this is his first test after the ICC certified that his action conforms to the prescribed norms.

Moreover, he is under pressure to perform in what will be a deciding game in this series. The `Turbanator' was nowhere near his usual self and he will be hoping to get into the groove very early on the third day.

Pakistan has dominated the second day's proceedings apart from clawing their way back on the field. Dravid batted solidly on the opening day to compile a century as did Tendulkar for his half century.

Dravid held the innings together. But for his effort the Indians would have totally messed up the start provided by the openers.

The preference of Tendulkar to play more through the on side gives me the impression that the pain in his leading elbow has not completely subsided.

However, the little master did not allow the bowlers to dictate terms as he did at Mohali but a lapse in concentration cost him his wicket.

Ganguly must be telling himself that it is just a matter of one good innings to get his confidence back, but ironically one good knock by Akmal a few days ago has tilted the psychological balance heavily in favour of Pakistan.

The Indian skipper has to make things happen as the Pakistanis have made a formidable reply. Ganguly appears to be lacking his usual fizz, but he has to keep his boys interested when things are not going as planned.

Though the Indians fielded well and saved a few runs, the overall strategy lacked conviction.

The Indians have to take the field on the third morning with a decisive game plan in order to stay in the game, failing which the hunter may well become the hunted.

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