| Asim Kamal en route to his 91 in Mohali on Tuesday
Chandigarh: There was no great show of emotion on Sourav Ganguly's face as he headed for the team bus, almost an hour after stumps. Only a quiet sense of satisfaction at having managed to come up trumps after going into this opening Test with three fast bowlers.
If that was a bold decision, he was left with an unpleasant choice once the coin fell in his favour. The Irfan Pathans, Zaheer Khans and Lakshmipathy Balajis, though, did not disappoint, the Tamil Nadu pacer once again making clear his special liking for the Pakistan batsmen.
Balaji's maiden five-wicket haul, however, could not prevent the visitors from initiating a late-order resistance that saw them climbing to 312 after being reduced to 191 for six at tea. The Asim Kamal-led recovery isn't a cause for much concern to the Team India captain.
'I don't think Pakistan has reached an insurmountable total. The wicket is playing true, the ball is coming on to the bat. The early morning movement is always going to be there but it will become easier after the first couple of hours,' Sourav told The Telegraph.
Inzamam-ul Haq was pragmatic. 'Kamal played well. If our bowlers can stick to a definite line, as the Indians did today, things should be easier,' the Pakistan captain said.
The Indians were quick to make use of the seam and swing movement on the greenish wicket, in neighbouring Mohali. It was not as if the ball was flying around but the Indians bowled to their plan and with success. Pathan, coming off an injury, was tentative at going flat out at the start.
Balaji, though, showed no such inhibitions. Having used the two Duleep Trophy matches to regain his rhythm after the long lay-off, he was bang on target. The batsmen struggled against his incoming and late swinging deliveries. His exploits with Pathan played a big part in India winning the series in Pakistan last year and the pair already seems to have struck the right chord.
Balaji (five for 76) troubled all the Pakistani batsmen and provided the breakthroughs whenever Sourav looked up to him. Kamal's dismissal, once he played across the line, ensured Pakistan did not build on their gains further.
Sourav, however, could have used himself for a few more overs before lunch. The use of more fast bowlers also meant India were falling short on the over-count, but Anil Kumble's presence and an extended session nullified such threats.
If Taufeeq Umar (44) and Inzamam (57 off 92 balls, 7x4) provided the support at the top, Kamal saw that their efforts did not go in vain. Sticking to the basics and not trying anything extravagant, he played a fine innings.
Kamal (91 off 163 balls, 14x4) fell for the second time in his career in the Nineties. The left-hander may not be the most elegant but surely lends his side the solidity in the middle-order. Relying more on grit and willingness to stay put, he carried the innings with some support from the late-order. The occasional low bounce was not much of a problem.
'It's disappointing to miss a hundred but it's all part of the game. I feel relaxed at the thought that I have managed to play my part in the team,' said Kamal later.
'I'm trying to make it a habit of performing under pressure. I played to the plan of the captain and coach of staying at the wicket and taking it session by session,' he explained.
Kamal, who spent 233 minutes at the wicket, termed it as 'supportive of both the batsmen and the bowler, and with enough bounce'.
He certainly demands a promotion but Kamal is keeping his fingers crossed. 'It's for the captain and coach to decide. I can only try and fight it out.'
His innings provided the hundred-odd Pakistan fans in the stadium lots to cheer about. He was virtually mobbed by a few of them who managed to make their way into the dressing room balcony after the close.