Pakistan recover after Sehwag double-hundred
Pakistan were unable to prevent Virender Sehwag from scoring a double-century, his second big hundred of the series, on the third day of the Bangalore Test, but nevertheless finished the day conscious of a slight advantage after having reduced India to 379 for 6, 191 runs in the arrears.
On a pitch that continued to be good for batting and offered no encouragement to the quicks and little purchase to the spinners, Pakistan could only watch as Sehwag continued his scintillating run of form. But they chipped away steadily at his partners, and when they finally got Sehwag for 201 late in the day they came back strongly into the game, picking up another two wickets before stumps. Should they manage to take a lead of 150 or so tomorrow, they would be in a position to make a strong push for victory on the fifth day.
Sehwag's rapidly maturing game was seen at its crafty and variegated best as he extended his overnight 39 to 201, his third century against Pakistan in six Tests. Notwithstanding the rate at which he scored, it was Sehwag's most restrained innings of the series. Although he found the boundary consistently, at one stage taking seven fours off Arshad Khan's first eight overs, he was quite happy to take advantage of Pakistan's wariness of his form and reputation, which manifested itself in deepset fields and bowling that looked to contain him rather than get him out.
He appeared to know precisely what every bowler was attempting and where each fielder was placed, and rotated the strike dextrously by manufacturing all sorts of angles with his strokes. Having raised his hundred shortly after lunch, he gave up his helmet for a broad-brimmed hat as Inzamam deployed spin at both ends, and severely vexed Kaneria by turning him against the spin to leg when he bowled over the wicket, and then slicing everything to off when he came round the wicket. But he still retained a spirit of showmanship, bringing up his 150 by launching Kaneria over long-on for six as he had launched Saqlain Mushtaq last year to bring up his triple-hundred at Multan.
But Sehwag's effort was undermined some what by the inability of any of his partners to make a big score. Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were both guilty of giving away their wickets, Dravid missing a lap shot against Danish Kaneria and being adjudged lbw (172 for 2), and Tendulkar attempting to hoist Shahid Afridi over the infield and holing out to point (257 for 3). These wickets gave Pakistan heart when a big partnership could have seen them flag.
When Sehwag fell to Kaneria three balls after raising his double-hunded, trying to work the ball across the line once too often, Pakistan were quick to sense an opportunity. Kaneria surrounded the beleaguered Sourav Ganguly with close fielders, and one ball after offering a sharp bat-pad chance that was put down Ganguly lost his head and charged the bowler, and was left groping as a googly zipped past his outside edge. Kamran Akmal made no mistake behind the stumps (343 for 5).
Mohammad Sami had bowled his heart out in the morning session, and now he returned to attack VVS Laxman and Dinesh Karthik, and struck when Karthik fenced a short ball to gully, where Asim Kamal took a sharp catch (373 for 6). Laxman, who batted steadily without looking in the best touch, brought up his half-century just before stumps, but there is a lot of work still ahead of him. Tomorrow he must look to make runs and consume time in the company of the tail.
Pakistan could be well satisfied with their day's work. The bowling was disciplined and purposeful, the fielding - led by the excellent Akmal behind the stumps - consistently good, and with plenty of runs to play with the team exuded more confidence than at any time in this series. All they missed was some fast-bowling support for Sami, with Abdul Razzaq off-colour. Even so, they will go tomorrow into the penultimate day of the series knowing they still have a chance of squaring it.
Gambhir c Younis b Sami 24 (98 for 1) Tried to run a wide ball to third man and found the fielder at second slip.
Dravid lbw Kaneria 22 (172 for 2) Tried to lap Kaneria to leg and was adjudged lbw.
Tendulkar c Younis b Afridi 41 (257 for 3) Looked to launch Afridi over the infield and looped a catch to point off a thick outside edge.
Sehwag c & b Kaneria 201 (337 for 4) Tried to turn a legbreak to the on side and chipped a return catch.
Ganguly st Akmal b Kaneria 1 (343 for 5) Came down the pitch and was comprehensively beaten by a googly.
Karthik c Kamal b Sami 10 (373 for 6) cut Sami fiercely but was snapped up at gully
Chandrahas Choudhury is staff writer with Wisden Asia Cricket