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January 31, 2006
Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan piled on the runs, and another old tormentor - Shahid Afridi - scooped on the misery before Faisal Iqbal, the comeback kid, produced a maiden century of the highest class to shut India out of the Karachi Test. It was only the fourth time that all six top-order batsmen had made at least a half-century and by stumps, Pakistan's lead had swelled to an insurmountable 518. With two days still to play and no team having made more than 418 to win a Test, Pakistan were perfectly placed to push for the victory that would avenge the series loss on home soil two years ago.
India's bowlers didn't lack for effort, but they were stymied by their inadequacies and a pitch that was so benign as to make you wonder if it was the same one on which 14 wickets had fallen on the opening day. And with conditions in their favour, the batsmen had no intention of letting things drift, with Iqbal especially impressive in his role as Inzamam-ul-Haq's replacement. A little over three years ago, he scored a magnificent 83 at the P Sara Stadium in Colombo, against an Australian bowling line-up at its peak. After a lengthy spell on the sidelines and a first-innings failure here, he came up with an innings of similar quality, defending with a straight bat and severe on anything that asked to be hit.
Some of the cover-drives he played were just peachy, and the pulls and cuts also exemplified the confidence of a man who believes that he belongs in such an arena. With the sun setting and the bowlers spent, an emphatic pull for four off Kumble took him to three figures, and he received a stirring reception from his home crowd. There was also a hug from Abdul Razzaq, who had played his part with two huge sixes off Kumble during an accomplished knock of 44.
Any hopes that India had of salvaging this game had evaporated much earlier in the morning sunshine, as Younis and Yousuf brought up their fourth century partnership of the series - their fifth in the last five Tests against India. The bowlers toiled 25 overs without reward after Yousuf, who had gone past 5000 Test runs on the second day, set the tone for the morning with a superb cut for four off Rudra Pratap Singh. Singles were scampered with great ease, and the occasional sloppy effort in the field resulted in singles becoming twos.
There was some swing for Pathan, and also movement off the pitch, but he bowled at such leisurely medium pace that the batsmen were never hustled into a false stroke. Rudra Pratap was a little better and on the one occasion that he tried to surprise Younis with a bouncer, a withering pull sent the ball to the midwicket fence.
Younis took just 65 balls for his 50, and when Dravid called on Ganguly to bowl at gentle pace, Yousuf followed suit with a glorious on-drive for four. Thereafter, the runs kept coming, with a nudge here and a cut there, and two gorgeous straight-drives from Yousuf off Zaheer merely emphasized Pakistan's dominance. For India, playing a game of patience, the wait for a wicket was interminable.
It ended only after lunch but by the time Kumble trapped Younis in front, he had taken his series tally to 553, 45 more than the slim pickings he managed in India last year. It might have proved a window of opportunity, but Iqbal came in and batted with such confidence that thoughts of a collapse were soon swept away. He started with a fabulous back-foot punch for four off Ganguly, and then produced a forceful pull over midwicket.
Kumble kept plugging away at one end, and was unfortunate not to have Yousuf, when a mistimed drive just cleared Zaheer at mid-on. He had got to within three of his third century of the series when Kumble was again rewarded for his perseverance. The flipper did the trick, and Yousuf departed with 461 runs from the three matches.
Afridi arrived to a crescendo of noise, and quickly increased the din with three thumping off-drives. After a delicate late-cut for four, words were exchanged with Kumble, prompting the umpire to step in and have a word. But Afridi played sensibly, tempering his natural aggression, and his approach also seemed to encourage Iqbal, who played two splendid square-drives off Kumble. After 92 overs, Dravid had had enough, calling for the second new ball to try and rediscover the magic of the first morning.
Instead, he had to watch silently as Afridi went berserk, hammering Pathan for two fours and a six in an 18-run over. By the time he got carried away, much to the Indians' relief, he had thumped 60 from 46 balls in a blistering cameo that ensured that India would have to score more than they ever had to win a Test match. By stumps, however, even the honourable draw wasn't an option, unless a few million rain-dances did the trick.
Younis Khan lbw Kumble 77 (280 for 3)
Barely forward to one that barely turned
Mohammad Yousuf lbw Kumble 97 (318 for 4)
Trapped on the back foot by one that quickened onto him
Shahid Afridi c Tendulkar b Rudra Pratap 60 (402 for 5)
Mis-hit a pull to mid-on
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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