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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan at Lahore
January 16, 2006
India 403 for 0 (Sehwag 247*, Dravid 128*) trail Pakistan 679 for 7 dec by 276 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Records continued to tumble at the Gaddafi Stadium as Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid led an emphatic Indian response to a mountain of a total on a start-stop fourth day of the first Test at Lahore. Blasting his way to the second-fastest double-hundred of all time, Sehwag propelled India to 403 for no loss, all but certain of leaving with a draw and starting afresh at Faisalabad. Dravid, overshadowed but essential, cruised to a masterful century himself, his first as captain, and played his part in getting 77 adrift of the follow-on mark.
What Pakistan did on the first two days, India showed they could match and a 50-year-old record, for the best opening partnership of all time, came under threat. Zooming along at an astonishing run-rate of 5.4, India's openers, thriving in batting paradise, engineered a thunderous reply under gloomy skies. Sehwag produced an off-side masterclass - only nine of his 46 fours came on leg side - while Dravid, factoring in the controversy surrounding the opening dilemma, offered stupendous support. Yet, a look at the scoreboard would reveal that India hadn't even avoided the follow-on in what must surely rank as one of Test cricket's most famous batathons.
Mild overnight rain and gloomy skies meant that more than an hour of play was lost this morning - 185 minutes were lost all day - and the only highlight of a brief two-over session that followed was Sehwag muscling his way to his hundred, his first in nine months and the fastest by an Indian opener. Once lunch was out of the way, he didn't even have to worry about the elements. Starting this game with a Bradman-esque average of 98.2 against Pakistan, he pounded his way to his second successive double-hundred against them, as blinding strokeplay blended seamlessly with cheeky strike rotation.
For Sehwag, the key is in the simplicity - minimal footwork, maximum balance. When short, slash; when full, drill; when pitched on a good length, slap; when flighted, loft; when short and wide, carve; when fast, biff; when slow, bash. This isn't cryogenics; just an art he makes look so easy. He was dropped twice - once by Inzamam when on 125 and then by Shoaib Malik, a tough one, on 199 - and wasn't given out when he gloved to Kamran Akmal when on 150. He missed a few but rarely did any of this matter. Shoaib Akhtar was blunted; Mohammad Sami, spanked; Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, dismissed; Danish Kaneria, destroyed; and the rest scattered. This was Mohammad Yousuf and Shahid Afridi in one body; a controlled blitz on a gloomy day.
Dravid's was an innings in contrast - absorbing the pressure before opening up with style - but it should be gauged on the controversial events that went before. Opening for the ninth time in a Test, he displayed supreme composure against the faster men, brushed off repeated stoppages for bad light and soon unfurled an array of gorgeous strokes. The 124-ball fifty was a lesson in solidity but the second fifty, off 78 balls, was a treat for its controlled aggression. Finding the angles to a tee, he gently threw the bowlers off rhythm and then capitalised on the loose offerings, several of which were directed on his pads.
The duo surpassed the record for the highest opening partnership for India against Pakistan, bettering the mark made by Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth at Madras in 1986, and were 11 away from beating the world-record 413 by Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad in 1956. If the light holds for the rest of the game, statisticians could have a tough time keeping up with the run flood on a chappati-flat pitch and both teams could already be keeping on eye on the surface at Faisalabad.
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