India v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Kochi April 2, 2005

The right hand of Zak

Amit Varma and Chandrahas Choudhury

Three overs, 21 runs. No wonder Zaheer Khan was taken off. But then he came back, and how. He waited at the end of his run-up as the sightscreen was laboriously moved into position, and then he stormed in to Yousuf Youhana. Youhana smashed him towards long-on, and in a moment of magic, Zaheer leapt to his right, extended himself as much as he could, and then a bit more, and a bit more, all this in a split second, and found something familiar settle into his right hand. He rolled over and jumped up, and Youhana began to walk back towards the pavilion in disbelief. Both men had a look of disbelief on their faces, but one was laughing. (AV)

Ganguly's misery, and Sehwag's scorcher
It seems Sourav Ganguly can do nothing right, and Virender Sehwag nothing wrong.

Ganguly made an ignominous first-ball duck, but Sehwag, dropped first ball, made the opposition pay heavily with 108. And then, when India took the field, Ganguly positioned himself at short point for Kamran Akmal, while Sehwag fielded 15 yards away from him at slip. Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled, Akmal flashed, and disgracefully the Indian captain seemed to duck, as if avoiding a Mohammad Sami bouncer, as the ball zipped over him.

The capacity crowd booed vociferously, Ganguly felt the temperature rise, and directed Sehwag to take up the position at short point, while he moved to a less demanding position on the leg side. Two balls later, Balaji bowled an identical delivery, Akmal responded with an identical stroke, but Sehwag pouched the fierce hit as if picking an apple from a tree, and took a bow.

And fate sometimes offers you a second chance, as Ganguly proved in the next over by throwing himself in the air at square leg and finding Salman Butt's flick lodging in his palms. (CC)

The big guns silenced
Was this the Sachin of old? Rana Naved-ul-Hasan dropped one short, and Sachin Tendulkar rocked back and cut it over the infield for four. The next ball was again just short of length, and he rocked back to pull, but the ball was a touch higher than expected, and looped up as he failed to improvise enough. Yousuf Youhana at mid-on jogged in, and took an easy catch.

Then came Sourav Ganguly, beleaguered, out of form. "I'll play myself into form in the one-dayers," he had said after the Bangalore Test, but here he stepped across his stumps off the first ball he faced, a nervous shuffle, and Naved bowled what would have been a perfect outswinger for the right-hander, which hit this left-hander's leg stump. Ganguly looked back - but did not wait. (AV)

The first roar
The first ball of a match always gets the crowd roaring, and so they did at Kochi, when Mohammad Sami ran in to bowl to Virender Sehwag. Sami, his wavy hair flopping around on his slender frame, bowled a short ball outside off, and as you would expect, Virender Sehwag slashed it uppishly towards point. Mohammad Hafeez dived, the ball slipped into his hands - and out. That over eventually ended a maiden, but not a wicket-maiden. Sehwag had survived, and the crowds sighed in relief. Then they roared again. (AV)

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo. He writes the independent blogs, India Uncut and The Middle Stage.

Chandrahas Choudhury is a staff writer with Wisden Asia Cricket.