'At the moment it's looking like a draw' - Woolmer
After the most absorbing day of cricket in this series so far, such has been the dominance of batsmen and the insipidity of the pitch, Bob Woolmer told reporters he still felt a draw was the most likely result. Although Pakistan were in the ascendancy for a brief period when Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed to leave India at 281 for 5, an unbroken stand of 160 (at a run-a-minute) between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan for the sixth wicket took India comfortably past the follow-on mark and their side, to a position of relative comfort 147 runs behind Pakistan's first innings.
Woolmer said, "I suppose we need to get five quick wickets and India need to think the other way. Those two batted really well. At the moment it's looking like a draw and the pitch doesn't look to be breaking up. Yesterday I thought the wicket was more uneven but today it looked pretty flat. There were periods where there were a rush of wickets but basically it looks very tough for one side to bowl another out."
Dhoni's dazzling counterattack was helped initially, felt Woolmer, by some indisciplined bowling. "At 281 for 5, there was some turn there and we just needed to get two more wickets and we could have seen a possibility of a result. But I thought the two youngsters played very well. We didn't bowl intelligently when they came in and we bowled really well at the end when they had settled. If the ball had gone to hand, we might have got both out. It's on such little things that such matches turn." But he was quick to laud the batting of Dhoni. "I think he's a belligerent, hard-hitting cricketer. His innings has certainly changed the game for India. He took on Shoaib Akhtar which is a brave thing to do at any stage and he was ably supported by Pathan."
India's collapse post-lunch, when they lost four wickets for 45 runs in just under 11 overs was due in some part to a blistering six-over spell by Shoaib Akhtar. But as he tired, Dhoni and Pathan both settled down and Woolmer rued the possibilities another two overs from Shoaib would have brought. "I don't know why he didn't bowl more. You have to ask him that question. I wasn't out in the middle and I haven't asked the captain. Maybe two more overs in that spell might have turned the game, but you never know. But as an ex-cricketer I wouldn't have liked to be out there facing him. As a coach of the team, I would say it was a very good spell."
Woolmer also praised Younis Khan, standing in as captain for the injured Inzamam-ul-Haq. "I thought Younis did very well out there, he handled it very well. He was little bit unlucky in periods but like all captains, you learn as you go along and learn by experience. One of the hardest things in the world is to be able to put the fielders in the gap before the shot goes there."
By dismissing Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Asif picked up his first Test wicket and also capped another bright day with the ball. In a probing spell at the end of the day, he could have ended up with a couple more, but Woolmer said he was satisfied with his bowling. "I thought he bowled beautifully the whole day, it was an excellent performance. It's just a shame that he didn't get the two wickets in the evening. Both catches didn't go to hand and one touched the end of Kamran's fingers."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo