India on the verge of history
Close Pakistan 407 (Hameed 91, Inzamam 77, Pathan 4-100) and 207 for 9 (Youhana 107*, Kumble 6-71) trail India 675 for 5 dec by 61 runs
On a day when wickets fell at an astonishing rate, Yousuf Youhana scored a fighting century to keep the jaws of defeat from snapping shut. India rose like giants and were on the verge of their first Test win on Pakistani soil. The pitch, now four days old, hardly crumbled, but India's bowlers stuck to their guns with such great application that Pakistan's batsmen withered and slumped to 207 for 9 after following on. They were still 61 runs adrift of India. Kumble, with 6 for 71, had once again turned on the heat when India needed it the most.
The day began with Pakistan in difficulty at 364 for 6, and ended with them staring defeat in the face. Pathan set the tone with a peach of a delivery first up. He pitched one on the perfect spot, with a maximum of effort, and the resultant lifter kissed Abdul Razzaq's glove on the way to the wicketkeeper. Razzaq did not have a chance to add to his overnight score of 47 (364 for 7).
Then, on 371, two more wickets fell. Saqlain Mushtaq, in a momentary lapse of composure, slashed Pathan to Zaheer Khan at mid-off (371 for 8). On the same score Shoaib Akhtar presented Sachin Tendulkar with a simple return catch, off a full-toss (371 for 9).
India were charged up, but had to wait 36 runs before they could wrap up the Pakistan innings. Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammad Sami batted with great patience, keeping out deliveries with an uncomplicated technique. But, in the 127th over, Kumble squeezed one ball through and Sami was bowled off his thigh. Pakistan were all out for 407, still well short of the follow-on mark. Pathan had 4 for 100 to show for his untiring effort.
When Pakistan were forced to bat out a tricky period before lunch, and did so with aplomb, spectators at the ground still believed that they could pull off a draw. Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed played out seven overs for 11 runs. But soon after the lunch interval, things began to happen, slowly but surely, for India.
Kumble flighted the ball more than he normally does, and had Farhat (24) flashing at a drive outside off that resulted in an edge that nestled in Parthiv Patel's gloves (33 for 1). Farhat's attacking strategy had failed, as did Taufeeq's defensive approach. After spending 60 balls in scoring 9, he padded up to Kumble and was trapped in front. Not offering a shot is a dangerous approach at the best of times, but with Kumble bowling well, and the ball turning just enough to sow a seed of doubt in batsmen's minds, it was fatal (44 for 2).
Then came the decisive blow. Inzamam-ul-Haq, fresh to the crease and not quite tuned in yet, was slow to respond to a call for a single, and was caught short by a direct hit from Yuvraj Singh (44 for 3). Several fans made a beeline for the exits after Inzamam's dismissal.
If Yuvraj's fielding was the result of hours of hard work and practice, his next act of success - the wicket of Yasir Hameed for 23 - came with a little help from luck. Yasir, attempting to sweep, could not control the ball and Virender Sehwag picked up a good catch at short fine leg (75 for 4).
It was then left to Youhana and Razzaq to make the best of a bad situation. Youhana began by striking the first ball he faced effortlessly through the covers, and was clearly in fine nick. The same could hardly be said of Razzaq. Although he managed to get behind the line of the ball and defend with care, he never quite looked fluent. In the 46th over he survived a loud shout for a catch at forward short leg. Off the very next ball he went back to Kumble and flicked the ball firmly. Aakash Chopra showed stunning reflexes close to the bat on the leg side, and plucked the ball out of the air as it went past him (106 for 5). It was magical bit of fielding, and it lifted the Indian team visibly.
Moin Khan (5) was the next to go, trapped plumb in front by a full delivery from Pathan. Though he was unhappy with the decision, replays showed the ball brushing the pad before hitting the bat (113 for 6).
Kumble then took over, and had both Sami and Saqlain adjudged lbw (136 for 8). Youhana continued to strike the ball fiercely, finding gaps with ease. When the field was up he lofted the ball with precision, and all of a sudden the runs started to flow. The Indians, thanks to their massive first-innings total, had no reason to worry - runs were irrelevant at this stage. Youhana found a valuable, if unlikely, ally in Shoaib Akhtar. They put on 70 for the ninth wicket, of which Shoaib contributed only 4. He stayed at the crease for just under an hour, and his only scoring shot was a heaved boundary to the midwicket fence.
The fall of Shoaib, caught at silly mid-off by VVS Laxman off Kumble, off the last ball of the penultimate over of the day, only added to the drama. The third umpire was needed to determine whether it was actually a catch or a bump-ball, but the TV replays showed clearly that the ball had gone straight from bat to hand (206 for 9).
Youhana, who hit 15 fours and two sixes from 152 balls, played out the first five deliveries of the final over, bowled by Tendulkar, and Shabbir negotiated the solitary ball he had to face. With Pakistan on 207 for 9, and India on the verge of an historic win, the umpires removed the bails and stumps were drawn on the fourth day.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be following the Indian team throughout this tour.