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November 29, 2006
After two days in which the batsmen struggled to bat for long periods, Pakistan finally managed to get a substantial partnership going as they took charge of the third Test at Karachi. After limiting West Indies to 260 - despite Denesh Ramdin's battling 50 - Pakistan rode on an unbeaten 57 from Mohammad Hafeez to end the third day on 130 for 2, an overall lead of 174.
Over the last couple of days the pitch attracted plenty of flak - Inzamam-ul-Haq and Chris Gayle have been quite vocal about their opinions. But, when the general expectation was that it would deteriorate as the match wore on, the surface was at its best - relatively, at least - today. The bounce was still awfully low, but there was none of the inconsistency that had been on display on the first and second days. That, coupled with the lack of pace, meant that survival at the crease wasn't such a problem. Run-scoring remained difficult - Pakistan only managed a run rate of 2.50 - but with a 1-0 lead in the series and a couple of days still to go, the rate at which the runs came was never going to be an issue for Inzamam.
A soporific day only came to life very late in the final session, when Chris Gayle trapped Younis in front and Yousuf walked out, requiring 47 to get past Viv Richards's tally of 1710 to become the highest run-scorer in a calendar year. Sensing that there might be nerves for the batsman too, Lara introduced Jerome Taylor into the attack, and in fading light he let it rip, generating some reverse-swing and once even beating his defence with a sharp inswinger. Yousuf, though, survived that brief period, and with the light fading quickly, the umpires soon called off play.
Till that brief passage of play, there was little for the crowd to cheer through the day. After West Indies had been finally bowled out at the stroke of lunch, Pakistan began at a pace that set the tone for the innings. Imran Farhat and Hafeez added 11 runs in the first 12 overs, with Farhat making a solitary run in the first 36 balls he faced. Both batsmen were kept in check by the accuracy of the West Indian seamers, but Farhat was gradually finding his groove when Daren Powell nailed him with a perfect delivery which angled away and found the edge.
Younis and Hafeez then got together for a partnership which took up most of the evening session. Though survival was reasonably easy, both batsmen struggled to up the tempo - Younis drove Powell for consecutive fours, and then hoicked a six over square leg off Gayle, but those were rare moments of aggression in an innings which was a study in restraint.
Hafeez, too, attempted few attacking strokes. He struck six fours, and all of them were scored behind point, a couple of them deliberate steers, and the others edges that went to ground and raced through the slip cordon. It wasn't his most fluent innings, but he rode through the tough periods, and by close of play had ensured that he would end the series exactly as he started it - with a half-century.
If Pakistan had a good day with the bat, they also had a reasonable day in the field, despite Ramdin's 50 and his 44-run last-wicket stand with Corey Collymore. In fact, the opening session on the third day was remarkably similar to the corresponding session on the previous day, when Pakistan recovered from two early jolts to post a significant last-wicket stand. When they walked out to resume play, it seemed Ganga's contribution would be the vital one for West Indies, but he added just four to his overnight 77 before wafting at a wide one from Abdul Razzaq.
Inzamam-ul-Haq then opted for the new ball in the 84th over, and the move met with immediate success, as Powell was cleaned up by Umar Gul, while Shahid Nazir induced an edge from Taylor which was superbly snaffled by a diving Kamran Akmal.
Ramdin, though, was far from done. He struggled against Danish Kaneria, and was extremely lucky to survive - one edged drive missed the stumps and went through Akmal's legs for four, while another attempted sweep ballooned dangerously but fell in no-man's land. However, the new ball meant that Kaneria was taken out of the equation, and Ramdin flourished. With the ball coming on to the bat more easily, he was able to play more attacking strokes, and as he got a measure of the track, he grew in confidence, cutting and guiding Gul through third man, and then pulling him savagely as an attempted bouncer sat up nicely.
With Collymore offering splendid support, Ramdin reduced the deficit significantly before becoming a run-out victim as he attempted to farm the strike. West Indies would have been buoyed by that fightback, but by close of play Pakistan were the team which were calling all the shots.
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