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October 29, 2007
The moment Shoaib Akhtar's name was inked on to the team-sheet, some excitement was expected. But in his very first over back, playing an ODI after 13 months and a 13-match ban? His first ball caught Herschelle Gibbs completely off-guard and struck him on the shoulder. Gibbs flicked a boundary next, before two successive no-balls and free hits. Graeme Smith then played-on the first ball he faced and the over finally ended, eight minutes after it began, with South Africa 7-1. Not a bad way to come back into the side.
Oops I've dropped it again
Is there a man in Pakistan luckier than Kamran Akmal? He has gone through over a year dropping catches like Elizabeth Taylor dropped husbands and yet remains the first-choice wicketkeeper. He's dropped Jacques Kallis already in the Test series, though that was at least off spin, against which Akmal has as much clue as Inspector Clouseau. But his clanger today, dropping Kallis on 2 off Shoaib, has to go down as the worst of his drops, and there is stiff competition. Drop him? No, we'll take him to India as the only keeper. Meanwhile, Indian batsmen are queuing up to sign on to Pakistan's 'Give a batsman another chance' policy.
Six or out?
Already in his short career, Sohail Tanvir has made a habit of looking completely nonchalant in all areas of his work. When Shaun Pollock launched a sky-high loft towards long-on, the ball took some catching. Tanvir moved in, took it cool as a cucumber and just inside the boundary. Or was it? Replays suggested some doubt for it appeared as if Tanvir might have brushed the rope with his foot. He even looked back to see if he had, but walked away, naturally too cool for school. Pollock stayed at the wicket, and trudged off slower than Inzamam-ul-Haq when given out. He stopped at regular intervals but the umpires were unmoved and no replay was called for. Technology: it's either too much or too little.
He who laughs last
If international cricket ever has a five-over game, Imran Nazir would be its king. In Makhaya Ntini's very first over, Nazir punched, clipped and whipped the last three balls for boundaries, through extra cover, midwicket and square leg respectively. Off the first ball of Ntini's next over, he drove past mid-off to make it four emphatic boundaries in four Ntini balls: Pakistan were blazing, Nazir was the arsonist. But as has been a hallmark of Nazir's career - and a testament to the bowler's perseverance - it was Ntini who laughed last and loudest. Off the last ball of that over, Nazir tried to drive again, his feet not budging an inch, and only succeeded in edging behind. Like most Nazir knocks, it was short, sweet and pointless.
It's a long-on, no it's a long-off, no wait it's a two-in-one
Johan Botha was going to bowl the 27th over and Graeme Smith decided that he wanted to save a fielder. So he placed Shaun Pollock directly behind the bowler in front of the sight-screen to do the duties of both long-off and long-on. The batsmen - Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf had a word with the umpires who in turn had a word with Smith. Pollock was not moved after the discussions. Botha, however, bowled a tight over and was not driven down the ground even once.
And that's how Jonty would do it
Pakistan needed 16 off 26 balls with three wickets remaining, but no sweat, Shahid 'Boom-Boom' Afridi was still around. Not quite, though. He threw his bat at an Ntini delivery on the off stump, but only managed a top edge. The ball flew towards the backward point and third man region and just as it seemed to fall safe, AB de Villiers emerged, sprinting hard from point to take a tumbling catch. Even outside the context of Pakistan's panicky batsmanship, this was spectacular.
As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history