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December 10, 2007
After their efforts that saved the Kolkata Test, Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal staged another rearguard action that brightened Pakistan's chances of avoiding the follow-on in the final Test. Pakistan had slumped to 288 for 5 midway through the afternoon, but their unbeaten 81-run partnership righted the balance somewhat on a day when the Indian bowlers had to work exceptionally hard for little reward. The variable bounce challenged the batsmen, but also took its toll on the Indians, with 31 byes conceded in an astonishing tally of 70 extras.
When Faisal Iqbal's innings of 22 was ended by a nasty lifter from Ishant Sharma, India would have scented an opportunity to finish things off quickly. Sharma was impressive with the second new ball, bowling with good pace and extracting disconcerting bounce. Misbah survived a couple of confident leg-before shouts, and luck was very much on his side on a day when Rudi Koertzen failed to spot a thin edge behind off Harbhajan Singh's bowling. Misbah was on one at the time, and his 151-ball half-century frustrated the Indians all afternoon.
He wasn't all stodge either, playing some lovely cuts and steers when the bowlers dropped short, but the aggressive intent was left to Kamran Akmal, who once again cut and drove beautifully against his favourite opposition. By stumps, Pakistan needed just 58 to ensure India bat again, a healthy position that appeared unlikely when their two main men fell in quick succession before tea.
After Salman Butt had fallen in the morning session, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf added 72 at a fair clip. Younis played a glorious cover-drive off Ishant Sharma, and once again showed his mastery of the reverse sweep with three off Harbhajan. With Yousuf driving Anil Kumble on the up over cover, some of the Indians must have been dreading another marathon partnership between two men who average over 80 together, and an astounding 171.50 against India.
Younis's predilection for the reverse sweep, though, changed the game. When Harbhajan came round the wicket, he went for it again, only to be undone by the low bounce. Soon after, an irked Yousuf walked up to Kumble at gully and exchanged words. He didn't appear to be mollified by the response, and the incident probably had a lot to do with his dismissal - a loose steer to point after Irfan Pathan had angled one well wide of off stump.
Pakistan had enjoyed the better of the morning session too. Butt eased a couple of lovely drives through the covers, though he was also extremely fortunate to survive a vociferous shout for leg before from Pathan. Younis played a superb straight drive off Sharma and a square drive off Pathan, but the inconsistent bounce kept both batsmen on their toes.
Sharma was bowling too many no-balls though, and Kumble turned to Sourav Ganguly to exert some pressure from one end. And the move paid off when Butt, who had been put down at short leg by Gautam Gambhir off Harbhajan, got a thin edge to a delivery that slanted away from him.
Both Younis and Yousuf were lucky to see outside edges fly past the lone slip, and with Kumble bringing himself on 20 minutes before lunch, it was apparent that there would be a serious examination by spin in the afternoon. Instead, it was gentle medium-pace that almost did the trick, but Simon Taufel failed to spot that Younis had glanced one down the leg side off Ganguly. Dinesh Karthik's lukewarm reaction probably made up his mind, and Ganguly was a far from happy chappie as he walked off the field for lunch. It just about summed up a day when India huffed and puffed without being able to blow the house down.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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