The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak batsmen allowed a mile
- Indian bowlers fail to deliver the bite

Calcutta: As the Indians stretched on the field before walking back to the dressing room after stumps on the second day, John Wright was engrossed in a t'te-'-t'te with Irfan Pathan. The mediumpacer's waywardness was cause for concern and the coach did not wish to waste time in getting his message across.

This was only a reflection on the general lack of penetration in the attack that has threatened to put the hosts under pressure. The slow and listless pitch will also have to share part of the blame.

Nothing, though, can take the credit away from Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana for their unbroken 203-run third-wicket partnership. The unbeaten centurions have tilted the scales slightly in favour of the visitors but, as always, a breakthrough can make the difference.

The pall of gloom that descended on the Pakistan dressing room after the fall of Shahid Afridi and Taufeeq Umar had lifted by the close. They had built on the confidence gained in Mohali and were setting sights on bigger things. The visitors are still 134 in arrears of India's 407 in this second TVS Cup match, but that doesn't look so distant at the moment.

No exhilarating stuff, the Pakistani pair went about its task in a planned manner ' rotating strike and never allowing the bowlers to settle into a line. It paid rich dividends as the Indians were left searching for fresh options.

The pressure element no way affected the current and former vice-captains. The 211 minutes were also a test of their fitness in the prevailing sultry and humid conditions. They ran the singles sharp and were never afraid to take the initiative.

Younis' mishit off Pathan that flew over the slip cordon and brought his seventh century was only an aberration. Youhana's confidence can be gauged by the manner in which he whipped the last ball of the day to reach his 13th hundred.

'Yousuf and I are not like Sehwag or Afridi who can blast the bowlers around' We look for singles all the time. Afridi got us off to a great start today, and we kept looking for singles even if we played good balls in the gap, so the run-rate was maintained. We just made sure we carried on from where Afridi's short knock put us,' explained Younis.

The Indians hardly showed the zeal to make things happen. The bowling teetered from the ordinary to inadequate. The bowlers were hardly delivering to their fields, making it even more difficult for the captain.

Once Shahid Afridi led the brief but savage assault at the outset, it was tough for the pacers to settle into a rhythm. The new ball came of no help as they failed to extract any seam or swing movement.

Lakshmipathy Balaji, who was impressive in Mohali, was a shadow of his own self. Bowling with a fine leg and a deep square leg, he constantly pitched it up as Sourav struggled to stop the flow of runs.

Pathan's performance has hardly been encouraging in this series so far. As in the first Test, he was not bowling at his full pace and merely content with going through the motion.

You need to bend your back and hit the deck when the going gets tough and the pacers never made an attempt to do that.

The Pakistan spinners' exploits in the morning session had raised hopes but Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were not in their elements. Anil Kumble bowled the wrong line for most of the last session and the off-spinner seems to be struggling with his rhythm.

The fielding suffered as lethargic movement and drooping shoulders took its toll. Though Rahul Dravid's dropping a regulation chance off Umar early wasn't of much consequence, Dinesh Karthik squandered a run-out opportunity when Younis, on 68, was short of his crease by yards.

Kumble and Harbhajan, however, had an effective 44-run last-wicket stand as the Indian innings suffered a collapse in the morning. Karthik failed to beat a Mohammed Khalil throw before Danish Kaneria and Afridi picked a wicket each.

Kaneria and Asim Kamal had lucky escapes after being hit near the eye and neck, respectively, during the Indian innings.

The visitors' sigh of relief then, had transformed into a sense of satisfaction by the close.

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