| Virender Sehwag looks up after reaching his 50 on the third day of the Lahore Test. (AFP)
Lahore, April 7: At times, a week seems like seven years and, right now, the Indians are experiencing that. The yearning for what appears distant is tormenting.
Last Wednesday evening, everybody was cock-a-hoop in Multan as only one wicket was needed for an unprecedented win over Pakistan. At stumps today, Day III of the second Test, India required 54 runs to make the hosts bat again — and, with five wickets down.
Rarely have the Indians failed to come off in both innings, yet the unexpected did occur at the Gaddafi: after allowing Pakistan to take an awesome 202-run lead, the visitors crashed to 105 for five before Virender Sehwag (86 not out) and young Parthiv Patel played out 14-plus overs. India, one-up in the three-Test series, finished on 149 for five at close.
The odds favour a big Pakistan victory, but the wicket has prematurely begun to play tricks. So, should a near-miracle see the hosts actually being set a decent target, anything may happen. At this moment, there won’t be many takers for that, but the England-West Indies series has confirmed nothing ought to be discounted.
Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid, for one, hasn’t given up. “This is a team which fights and we will.... Tomorrow is going to be a fresh day and the match isn’t over.... I’m not despondent,” he told The Telegraph.
The Indians, of course, probably wouldn’t have been in this mess had Dravid himself not been run out (to a direct hit from Imran Farhat) without facing a ball. “It happens.... That’s life.... What else do I say'” he commented wearily.
The wily Javed Miandad, incidentally, isn’t already thinking of celebrating.
Speaking exclusively, the coach said: “It’s a cliche, but I believe that nothing is over till the last delivery.... Hamari position bahut strong hai, lekin game to khatam nahin ho gaya.... Those who apply themselves can occupy the crease and get runs.”
Grinning for the first time during the eight-day old Test series, Miandad continued: “Frankly, I didn’t expect India to lose half the side for just over 100 runs.... Traditionally, they bat well in the second innings.... Credit, though, must be given to our quicks who attacked with discipline.”
Indeed, Shoaib Akhtar often hurled grenades and it’s risky underestimating Mohammed Sami. As for Umar Gul, who made the XI at the eleventh-hour, he produced a gem to castle V.V.S. Laxman, who is struggling with footwork.
The day, by the way, had begun superbly with four Pakistan wickets falling in the opening hour — the maximum damage, not surprisingly, was inflicted by the consistently improving Irfan Pathan. Lakshmipathy Balaji played a handsome supporting role.
However, not for the first time, the tail flourished with the last three wickets adding 103. Asim Kamal, who got 99 on debut against South Africa earlier in the season, was last out for an invaluable 73.
“My instructions were very simple: Don’t gift your wicket, make the bowlers earn each one.… The batsmen did exactly that and I can’t praise them enough,” remarked Miandad, reaching for a gutka pouch.
John Wright will be saying much the same mantra as Sehwag and Patel resume the battle of their life. Speaking late tonight, the coach observed: “We’ve done special things.... We’ve got to be positive despite a distinctly disappointing day....”