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Moment comes at Multan

Multan, March 31: Not that anybody expects Pakistan’s last wicket pair to enact a miracle without precedent, but Team India (stand-in) captain Rahul Dravid and coach John Wright aren’t yet in the celebratory mode.

It’s typical of both.

“The job isn’t over.... Even if it’s one wicket, we’ve got work to do,” Dravid, surely hours from leading India to a historic first Test victory in Pakistan, told The Telegraph.

Wright said much the same thing, overwhelmed somewhat by Pakistan’s capitulation on the penultimate day of the first Test.

Thirteen wickets fell in six-and-a-half hours, including the 30-minute extension availed of by India to force a win today itself, but Pakistan managed to avert the humiliation of an innings defeat inside four days.

At 207 for nine in the second innings, Pakistan is still 61 in the red. Significantly, only once before (New Delhi, 1951-52) has India won by an innings. Nine years later, again in New Delhi, Pakistan forced a draw despite following on.

Vice-captain Yousuf Youhana, with a redeeming unbeaten 107, and No. 11 Shabbir Ahmed are left with an unenviable task. Lucky that the turnout has been poor or else, going by the distinctly angry mood this evening, there could have been unpleasant scenes at the stadium.

“Fight karna chahiye.... Yeh to sharam ki baat hai (It’s been a shameless performance),” was a common refrain. It wasn’t much different from what former captain Imran Khan observed in the morning, while exchanging notes with teammate and current chief selector Wasim Bari: “Spineless.”

Ironically, much of the ire seems directed at captain Inzamam-ul Haq, whose roots are in Multan. His run-out, after all (making it 44 for three), has to be a — if not the — turning point. Full marks, of course, to the panther-like Yuvraj Singh who was at midwicket.

“At times, one needs a bit of magic to make the difference. This afternoon, that came from Yuvraj.... Yes, he’s a natural, but works bloody hard.... Frankly, I can’t find words to praise him,” is how Wright saluted one of the hottest out-fielders in contemporary cricket.

Pakistan began the day on 364 for six, but its first innings didn’t extend for a reasonable length of time. In fact, Abdul Razzaq’s first-ball dismissal off Irfan Pathan (who again bowled superbly) was a pointer to what followed. If Razzaq continues to disappoint, then he is bound to be scratched out from President Pervez Musharraf’s list of favourites.

Made to follow on 268 behind, the second innings was an absolute disaster. Just fleetingly did Pakistan’s body language look competitive, otherwise, the Imran Farhats allowed themselves to become a victim of the huge deficit.

Anil Kumble, who returned another five-plus haul (six for 71), didn’t really have to rise above the script. “The wicket is placid.... The pressure of our 675 (for five declared) has proved to be too much.... Big runs on the board means big pressure,” he said, smiling.

Incidentally, Kumble has now got 32 wickets in his last four Tests, the sequence beginning in Adelaide last December.

On his maiden trip to Pakistan and coming off a shoulder strain-induced break, Kumble remarked it “didn’t take much time” to get into rhythm. “I’ve already bowled nearly 70 overs.... That too on a placid track.... I’ve done my bit, but we shouldn’t only look to winning here.... Bagging the (three-Test) series is what we’ve come to Pakistan for.... This team believes in winning,” he added.

Pakistan is about to learn that — and, at home.

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