| Inzamam-ul Haq after his dismissal for 86 runs on the fourth day of the first Test in Mohali on Friday. (Reuters)
Chandigarh: Only rain can save Pakistan and the last rites should be completed by lunch on the final day, feels former Pakistan captain Aamer Sohail. The Indians are optimistic, but wisened by the washout experience in Chennai against Australia last year, they are not taking things for granted.
A few players even enquired with the groundsmen about the weather forecast for Saturday. That the persistent threat remains is sure to cause sleepless nights for quite a few.
Danish Kaneria's brilliance enabled the visitors to restrict India's lead to 204 on the fourth morning, but Lakshmipathy Balaji and Anil Kumble's intelligent spells, coupled with a controversial decision, did put them in a spot of bother by close. With only 53 ahead and Abdul Razzaq the lone recognised batsman, it will be tough to prevent a 0-1 deficit going into the Calcutta Test.
Inzamam-ul Haq's fluent 86 may have confirmed his form, but it was Kaneria who grabbed all the attention. Against batsmen who are supposed to be adept at tackling leg-spinners because they can read the googly coming out of the bowler's hand, Kaneria returned with a six-wicket haul.
More importantly, none of the batsmen dared to come down the wicket even as the ball was tossed up. His length and pace was not easy to intercept and his control and variation always had the batsmen in two minds.
He has been successful where the Abdul Qadirs and the Shane Warnes have flopped. It may be too early to pass a judgement, but he has surely made his mark. Apart from Rahul Dravid, none of the Indian batsmen managed to play him with authority. As he grabbed all the four Indian wickets to fall Friday, his figures read 6.4-1-29-4.
V.V.S. Laxman, despite his 58, often played the wrong line as he tried to tackle him from within the crease. He was bowled off the inside edge as he tried to cut Kaneria's googly.
Irfan Pathan paid the price for stepping out to a googly, Balaji edged a legbreak and Zaheer Khan played all over a tossed-up delivery. Five overs into the Pakistan second innings, talk revolved around if the Indians would be able to wrap it up on the penultimate day itself. It all happened in a flash ' Pakistan were 10 for three in the fifth over.
Younis Khan failed for a second consecutive time and will now struggle to retain his position in the team. It should not come as a surprise if Shoaib Malik takes his place in the second Test.
It was the Inzamam-Yousuf Youhana 139-run partnership for the fourth wicket that kept them afloat. Inzamam was at his lethal best, striking the ball with fluency and immaculate ease. His body seemed alive to the challenge of the moment, enjoying the surge pressure brings.
Youhana prospered in his company. He found his confidence and the two flourished. As the mediumpacers failed to extract much from the wicket, Sourav Ganguly should have surely felt the need for a second spinner. Having no other option, he even tried out Sachin Tendulkar for three overs.
Kumble finally came to India's rescue. The Pakistan captain, who had earlier hit the leggie casually for a huge six, was declared leg before as he lunged forward. Darrel Hair upheld the appeal after a moment's thought. Inzamam never seemed happy with the decision.
Youhana (68 off 145 balls, 12x4) also fell to Kumble, the relaxed defensive shot trickling onto the stumps off the boots. As in the first innings, Asim Kamal was once again among runs.
The lefthander was dropped twice by Rahul Dravid off Kumble and he made most of the reprieves. He is proving to be an useful contributor in the middle-order which should come in handy for the visitors. He added 44 with Youhana and 50 with Razzaq before departing.
Apart from Kumble, it was Balaji who once again proved his mettle. He showed good exhibition of seam and swing movement and has already grabbed eight wickets in his 'comeback' match. It will only enhance competition for the fast bowlers' slot in the side.
Same home squad
The national selectors have decided to retain the same squad for the second Test from March 16. The selectors had a meeting with the captain and coach after the day's play. Meanwhile, Laxman, who took the full blow of a Kamal hit on his hand Friday, is reported to be fine.