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January 29, 2006
Another match, another hundred; such has been Kamran Akmal's run of recent form. In scoring his fourth Test hundred, he took his tally of centuries to three in his last four Tests. In that time, he has also scored two ODI hundreds as an opener. Arguably, on this pitch with his side teetering at 39 for 6, this was the finest of the lot.
Unless he is behind the stumps, Akmal is a man of few words; unassuming, shy even and improbably modest. He dedicated the century to his parents and said later that he rated this innings alongside his maiden Test hundred at Mohali last year, where he saved Pakistan from defeat on the final day. "I just wanted to play to the team's requirements. The Mohali century was probably my best one but this one is also a very good one because we were in serious trouble at 39 for 6. Thankfully we have managed to make a decent score because of my batting."
As he had done at Mohali, he asserted himself from the very beginning, rarely letting up in his run-scoring or allowing the precariousness of the situation to bog him down. "Inzi bhai just said to go out and play positively and play your shots that was all. That was what I did and it worked."
By the time he walked out to bat in the 10th over of the morning, six batsmen had gone, in unequal parts to good seam bowling and poor shot selection. Akmal refused to blame the batting and instead chose to praise the Indian seamers. "The batting wasn't that irresponsible and I don't think any of the shots were poor ones. It's just that the bowling was excellent before lunch. Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan both bowled very well and did exactly what was required on this pitch and I would like to congratulate Irfan on his hat-trick."
And as Pakistan bounded in to take four wickets in the afternoon - Akmal taking two catches - he said the pitch is likely to help the seamers through the match. "I think the wicket will continue to seam throughout. Playing the new ball is quite difficult on the pitch and that will be crucial. The new ball is moving around but once it gets old it doesn't do too much. But this match is by no means over."
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