Pathan's batting lesson to the top order
Irfan Pathan's promotion up the order might have flummoxed most experts, but the manner in which he scored those 93 runs - and not just the sheer number he made - offered an indication of just why the Indian think-tank had opted for the move. Opening batting is all about playing the percentages and cutting out the risks, and Pathan did that quite superbly.
To score his runs, he mostly relied on presenting the full face of the bat, and hitting it through mid-off - exactly what a Sunil Gavaskar would advise a budding opener to do. Three of his 11 boundaries came in that region, including a glorious loft off Muttiah Muralitharan for six.
In fact, the most impressive aspect of his innings was the manner in which he tackled the Murali threat. Not only did he keep the good deliveries at bay, Pathan also managed to take him for runs consistently, something that most batsmen struggled to do in the first innings. The table below shows how Pathan fared against each of the Sri Lankan bowlers, and quite surprisingly, he relished Murali's bowling the most, scoring at more than four-and-a-half against him. Sachin Tendulkar, during his first-innings century, only managed a rate of 2.76 (35 off 76).
|Bowler||Runs||Balls||Runs per over|
Of the 45 runs he scored against Murali, 31 came on the off side, while six more accrued from a meaty blow over long-on. Against a bowler known for his prodigious turn, he played with the spin, and mostly straight - that's a lesson which would stand the top-order batsmen in good stead through the rest of the series.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo