'I am happy that a player as great as Lara hits me around'
Seldom does a five-wicket haul occasion muted celebration, but a 12th one for Danish Kaneria is one such instance. He did dismiss Brian Lara but it came at exorbitant cost. Then again, on this surface, any success, two, three or five wickets, is a victory in its own right.
The pitch was foremost on Kaneria's mind after a day on which Pakistan pulled themselves out from a spot of considerable bother, asking local curators to make more helpful tracks. "This wicket has no life at all and you have to put a lot of effort into it. I know in the winter seasons in Punjab it is difficult to make good wickets but the wickets should be such to offer advantage to the home team. Curators here have to work harder to produce better pitches."
But a day-after sort of feel permeated through the fourth day, Lara's aura still looming large. Of Kaneria's 177 wickets - now equal tenth in Pakistan's list of highest wicket-takers with Sarfraz Nawaz - none have come more expensive than Lara. It is typical of Kaneria that he enjoys bowling to him, even after Lara, at one stage, had taken 60 runs from 29 deliveries he faced from Kaneria. "He is such a great batsman that it is an exciting challenge for me to bowl to him. I don't think getting hit by the world's number one batsman is a failure on my part. I am actually happy that a player as great as Lara hits me around. I learn from that but he has hit everyone from around the world."
Not all of them have been hit for 26 runs in an over, as Kaneria was, though Robin Peterson of South Africa, dispatched for 28 by Lara once, offers company. Talking about the over, Kaneria recognized he had been bested. "I was just thinking I wanted to block him and stop his scoring. He is a fantastic timer of the ball. He sees the ball from my hand and reads it so well which is the sign of a great player. I wanted to trap him but he was thinking ahead of me."
Trapping him he tried, as variations were utilized, angles changed and flights lowered, none to much effect. "I changed my action every now and then, used the crease a bit more. I tried different angles and variations and you have to give batsmen boundaries to buy their wickets. It just didn't work this time." But, as he was also quick to remind everyone bullishly, ultimately, he did get rid of him. "I also got him out. I know he had made a double hundred by then, but he sets himself for making 400 usually so it is something."
Solid half-centuries from Imran Farhat, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, second for the match for each of them, mean that Pakistan are only 21 runs behind, eight wickets in hand and a whole day left. A draw is the honourable and realistic option though Kaneria, ever the optimist, thinks otherwise. "We weren't negative today and we just wanted to play positively which I think we did with our batting. We are batting well. If we can get quick runs, make a total, we can put them under pressure as last days are always difficult."
More realistic claims to victory are those made by Daren Ganga, though he also acknowledged that the pitch wasn't likely to do them any favours. "The pitch is playing really well still. It is really placid and not offering much help to bowlers. The second new ball tomorrow morning will be the key period. We are obviously aiming for the win. We'd like to go to Karachi with the series tied and a chance to win the series." .
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo