Faisalabad: Two superb innings, each produced from different fibres, and two purposeful partnerships ... Add a furious spell and two instances of walking ... ‘Chirping’ as well ... That completes the picture. Clearly, on Monday, there hardly was a dull moment at the Iqbal Stadium.
“Right now, it’s pretty much even-stevens (in the second Test) ... However, 180 overs remain and that’s a big number in the subcontinent,” remarked Team India captain Rahul Dravid, who authored one of those two innings, with the other coming from Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Responding to Pakistan’s first innings total of 588, India reached 441 for five by stumps on Day-III. “Yes, a draw is the most likely result ... The wicket is still flat,” acknowledged Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer.
The script, though, may have read very differently had Dhoni and Irfan Pathan not stitched an unseparated sixth-wicket partnership of 160 ' a best for India in bilateral engagements. After the loss of four wickets in 11 overs, they ensured Pakistan didn’t get the option of asking India to bat again.
Additionally, Dhoni (116 not out) and Pathan (unbeaten on 49) made Dravid breathe easy. But for them, he would have had a tough time justifying playing a batsman less. Either being made to follow on or being in arrears in a big way would have meant failure on all fronts: Conceding too many, even with an extra bowler, and scoring too few after altering the balance of the XI.
“We always knew Dhoni and Irfan would give us a cushion ... That we had a back-up,” is how Dravid put it.
Reflecting on his own hundred (103 in 342 minutes, 220 deliveries, 16x4) and his record-rewriting partnership for the second-wicket with V. V. S. Laxman, he said: “Up against such a big total, it was important for a big stand to calm the nerves ... Laxman batted very well, but it’s disappointing we weren’t around when the second new ball was taken ...”
Dravid’s three-figure knock was his second in as many innings as opener and the Gautam Gambhirs will have to consider retiring very prematurely or hope for a slot ' none exists, at the moment ' in the middle-order.
The captain has been insisting his opening isn’t a long-term solution, but it definitely is the best. Moreover, at least in this innings, Laxman was absolutely comfortable in the No. 3 position.
For whatever reason, stand-in captain Younis Khan didn’t give Shoaib Akhtar an extended spell when his agenda was to blast out the Indians. “A couple of overs more (than the six) could have made a difference ... I don’t know why Shoaib didn’t have a longer bowl then ...” was Woolmer’s reaction.
Meanwhile, according to The Telegraph’s sources, Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle has taken note of the sledging from Pakistan and Younis was ‘summoned’ for an informal tete-a-tete.
Dravid made his displeasure known when he told the Media: “You make your deductions ... It’s for the umpires to see ...”
Shoaib, who unleashed that deadly spell after lunch, wasn’t the only one out to unsettle the Indians. Yet, his tactics paid off when Sachin Tendulkar walked instead of waiting for Simon Taufel’s verdict.
The TV replays revealed the express Shoaib delivery, pitched short as well, brushed Sachin’s right glove (which wasn’t holding the bat) and he ought to have stood his ground. He walked, like Dravid, who was run out by a brilliant throw from substitute Imran Farhat.
Excellent gestures, but ...
Footnote: Captain Inzamam-ul Haq’s participation in the third and final Test, in Karachi, is in some doubt. The position is unlikely to be clear in the next day or two.
INDIAN ’KEEPERS with test centuries
Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Monday became the eighth Indian wicketkeeper to score a Test century. Budhi Kunderan, Farokh Engineer and Syed Kirmani have got two each. Following is the list of Indian wicketkeepers to have smashed Test hundreds:
• Vijay Manjrekar — 118 vs WI in Kingston (1952-53)
• Budhi Kunderan — 192 vs Eng in Madras (1963-64)
• Budhi Kunderan — 100 vs Eng in Delhi (1963-64)
• Farokh Engineer — 109 vs WI in Madras (1966-67)
• Farokh Engineer — 121 vs Eng in Bombay (1972-73)
• Syed Kirmani — 101* vs Aus in Bombay (1979-80)
• Syed Kirmani — 102 vs Eng in Bombay (1984-85)
• Nayan Mongia — 152 vs Aus in Delhi (1996-97)
• Deep Dasgupta — 100 vs Eng in Mohali (2001-02)
• Ajay Ratra — 115* vs WI in St.John’s (2001-02)
• Mahendra Singh Dhoni — 116* vs Pak in Faisalabad (2005-06)
Compiled by Ravi Kant Srivastava