Running into happiness
Shahid Afridi ran, ran, ran, ran, ran towards square leg and punched the air with a divine joy and turned around, and then they fell onto him, one by one, a swarm of Pakistanis homing in on happiness. Sachin Tendulkar had played a ball from Afridi, just short-of-a-length, to Asim Kamal at short leg, and Kamal, who had dropped him earlier, held on. And then he watched Afridi run past him, and keep on running. What could stop them now? (AV)
The million-dollar miss
Throughout the series, Pakistan's fielders have been culpable of costly misses, but the biggest catch arrived moments before the tea break. As India waged a grim battle, Mohammad Sami, who was shaping the ball away from the bat, unleashed the surprise short one at Sachin Tendulkar. Tendulkar fended without any sort of control and the ball began its loopy trajectory left of the short-leg fielder, Asim Kamal. Kamal palmed it further away from him, juggled a couple of more times and as if overwhelmed by the occasion, groped in the air as the ball fell to the ground. Sami dropped to his knees immediately, Kamal realised the magnitude of the error and dropped too. Four Pakistan fielders had their hands on their heads, Kamran Akmal covered his face with his gloves and Inzamam-ul-Haq went down in slow motion to a postion of namaz. Eleven heads reeled in the centre as about 25,000 around them danced with relief. (SV)
When Sourav Ganguly came out to bat, sections of the crowd shouted, "We want Karthik, we want Karthik". Less creative sections just booed. It was sad: such a fine batsman in his prime, perhaps the best captain India has ever had, now reduced to a poor parody of his former self. He pottered around for a while, then tried to drive a ball from Shahid Afridi that pitched wide outside off, and missed. The ball came into him viciously, and bowled him. As the fielders celebrated, Ganguly stood around wondering what had happened, unable to fathom that he was out, thinking perhaps that it was a stumping attempt and his foot was in the crease, or that the ball had rebounded from Kamran Akmal's pads. He had been down for a while; and now the umpire said that he was out. He walked off; was it for the last time in a Test match? The crowd didn't care. They booed him. (AV)
The mesmeric opening
The roar over Sachin Tendulkar's entry had hardly died down as he faced up to Mohammad Sami's steaming deliveries, but off the third ball he faced, a full-length one on middle stump, he stirred some old memories. Front foot slightly forward, perfectly in position, bat thrust out just at the right moment, making perfect contact, summoning the force to drive it straight, managing the angle to beat the bowler ... and thwack. Sami's right hand extended desperately, the mid-on fielder simultaneously looked left, the ball had meanwhile covered three-fourth the distance to the fence, the crowd had gone bonkers and several nostalgic chords sprung up within. (SV)
Anything is possible
VVS Laxman had said yesterday, "The way [Virender] Sehwag plays, anything is possible." Well, Sehwag was 38 off 53 balls, playing with controlled aggression, when Danish Kaneria bowled to Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir pushed it to mid-on, Sehwag casually backed down the pitch, Abdul Razzaq raced to the ball, Sehwag turned, Razzaq threw, and leather hit timber. Sehwag didn't even have time to try to get back, he just walked to the crease and past it to the pavilion. Razzaq windmilled his arms, and Inzamam-ul-Haq came, a wide smile painted on his face, and lifted him up.
And then Rahul Dravid walked in. (AV)
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.