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November 28, 2006
Daren Ganga is unlikely ever to bring a house down with his batting in the manner of a Chris Gayle or Brian Lara. But there is a lot to be said for an opener in his mould, especially on a day, and a pitch, like this.
For over five hours, Ganga stood resolute, surviving trial by new ball swing, by reverse swing, by leg-spin and by unpredictable bounce. Though most of the nine boundaries in his 214-ball stay were executed with a pleasant correctness, unlike his 82 in the last Test, you are unlikely to recall any of them. Yet with his unbeaten 77 rest a substantial portion of West Indian hopes in this match.
"I was trying to consolidate the side's position," Ganga told reporters at the end of the day. "The plan was to make as many partnerships as possible and with Shivnarine Chanderpaul we got one going for a while. We tried to do it with Runako Morton and Dwayne Bravo as well but they both got out. The plan is to get as close to 304 as possible now."
Neither was it an easy effort and nor was it particularly pretty on the eye. That has much to do, said Ganga, with the pitch though he was at least candid enough to admit that, occasionally, such pitches are a pleasant surprise. "There is inconsistency in terms of bounce and it is tough going. It is important to be patient on this pitch. It isn't a sporting track because it's very slow and you can't play shots too easily on this," he said.
But he added, "This is a true test of character though, a real test of skill as a batsman. I am enjoying the challenge and as all great batsmen have done in the past, you have to prove yourself on all types of surfaces. As a batsman, you have to be tested in all conditions. In terms of concentration and technique it was one of my better knocks."
It has been one of his better tours too and following a fifty in Multan, the signs that West Indies have found a long-term partner for Gayle are promising. "Yeah, so far this year has been good for me. Against India and in New Zealand earlier this year, I was pretty consistent. I have set myself goals and am trying to achieve them. We knew it would be difficult on this tour, we knew we would be challenged but we have shown character so far."
If nothing else though, this Test will be a special one for him, for it brought him his first international wicket. And it wasn't a small one either. "Yeah getting Inzamam's wicket yesterday was special. It was a great joy to get such a big scalp. I haven't done much bowling but it's opened my eyes and I want to bowl more and become one of the options for my captain in the future."
Scalping big names is something Umar Gul is getting used to already. Having notched up Lara in Lahore to a list that already includes Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to name three, he was at it again here. A marvelous post-lunch spell of reverse swing brought three big names in two overs - Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Lara and the last two castled by peaches. Lara, bowled by one cutting away from him, was part of a plan.
"We plan against all batsmen and teams. We knew Lara shuffles early on and is a candidate for leg-before so my aim was to try for that," Gul said.
Despite three wickets and looking the most likely paceman to take more, Gul said the pitch wasn't helpful for fast bowlers. "It isn't that great for fast bowlers. You can keep the spinners on at one end and rotate bowlers at the other which Inzamam did well. It is a difficult pitch for fast bowlers but you have to be able to bowl on all kinds."
But if you're not confused enough about the nature of the pitch already, Gul added, as an afterthought, that "it's not a sporting wicket because even I batted well on it."
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