Plays of the day December 8, 2007

Sami's tour kicks off, while Shoaib plays the Cheshire cat

Please, please ... Mohammad Sami finally got a wicket in the Test series © AFP

Here comes the sun

The weather in Bangalore in the run-up to the Test, was overcast, dark and drizzly. The pitch and large parts of the ground were covered for the best part of Friday and there was hardly any improvement by the evening. However, Saturday morning was like an English summer's day. The sky was bright blue, the sun was out and there was a pleasant chill in the air as the players trooped out for a 9.30 am start. Full marks to the Met department for getting their forecast spot on.

A debutant and a 100-Test veteran

The debutant Yasir Arafat received his Test cap from his captain, Younis Khan, as the Pakistan team gathered in a huddle before taking the field. Arafat, the centre of attention, knelt for a photograph, his teammates standing around him. Who would have though then that Arafat, and not Shoaib Akhtar, would be the biggest of India's problems in the first session. While Arafat was making his debut, Ranjan Madugalle was making his 100th Test as Match Referee. Incidentally, Pakistan was also involved in his first Test - against Zimbabwe in Karachi in 1993.

Two firsts of the tour

Mohammad Sami had ploughed through 66 overs on lifeless tracks in Delhi and Kolkata without taking a wicket. Younis said Sami had bowled well but was unlucky, and perhaps he was right. Sami could have had Sachin Tendulkar at Eden Gardens but Kamran Akmal grassed a weak uppercut. Sami was given the new ball in the third Test in Bangalore and that seemed to do the trick for him. He seamed the ball away from Gautam Gambhir and celebrated his first wicket after Akmal held on to the edge. VVS Laxman, on the other hand, had scored 190 runs in the series without being dismissed before Arafat bowled him with one that kept low and hit the toe end of the bat.

The home-ground jinx continues

The crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium fell silent after Gambhir's dismissal but they were soon shouting themselves hoarse when local lad Rahul Dravid strode out at No 3. He drove his first ball sweetly through cover for three and, as he settled down, unfurled three exquisite drives to the cover boundary. Dravid moved on to 19 off 27 balls and showed signs of making first substantial score at home to improve on his record of 165 runs at 18.33. Arafat, however, put paid to those hopes by getting one to bounce sharply and induced the edge to Misbah-ul-Haq at first slip to cut Dravid short on 19.

Cricket and climate

The hundreds of spectators dressed in yellow in the stand opposite to the press box were hard to miss. And soon it was obvious what their presence was for. Today, apart from being the first day of the Test, was also the global day of action against climate change and, Greenpeace had around 1000 volunteers at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. They responded to the action with cricket-related climate messages. When a Pakistan bowler bowled a no-ball, they held up placards that read "Don't over-step on climate" and when Yuvraj hit one of his several boundaries the cards read "Climate change knows no boundaries".

Laxman might tolerate it but Ganguly won't

During his second spell, Shoaib ran in to bowl at Laxman and, in the middle of his run up, spread his hands out like Jason Gillespie used to do, to try and unsettle the batsman. Laxman, however, calmly defended the ball away. Not having worked the first time, Shoaib attempted it again, this time against Ganguly, who wasn't going to put up with such antics. He pulled out of the delivery the moment he saw Shoaib's arms spread out.

Shoaib's Cheshire cat act

Shoaib's fitness has attracted its usual share of attention on this tour. He played the Kolkata Test despite having not recovered fully from a chest infection but was reportedly ready and raring for the final Test in Bangalore. However, he seemed to have a problem with his back and bowled four overs in his first spell before going off the field at the end of the seventh over, during which he showed discomfort. He came back on after Gambhir was dismissed in the eighth over but once again left the field after bowling the ninth. He bowled eight overs before lunch and managed two more after the break before once again leaving the field at the end of the 32nd over for the final time.

Chalk and cheese

When Yuvraj brought up his magnificent hundred with a scorching cover drive off Yasir, the celebrations revealed what this century on a one-off Test opportunity meant to him. He leaped in the air, pumped his fists and roared his delight before saluting the applause from the crowd. Ganguly, on the other hand, was more sedate. He walked down the pitch after driving Yasir Hameed for four, took off his helmet, and raised his arms in triumph. After all he'd been there and done all that.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo