First Test Match

India v Pakistan 2007-08

Richard Sydenham

At Delhi, November 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 2007. India won by six wickets. Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: Sohail Tanvir.

Anil Kumble returned to the scene of his finest hour to enjoy a triumphant beginning to a Test captaincy career that had begun relatively late at 37. Kumble, who took all ten wickets in an innings eight years earlier against the same opposition on the same ground, now won the match award for his seven wickets in what was a tight, seesawing contest - until the fourth morning, when Pakistan's second innings collapsed, losing their last five wickets for just 34 runs. That gave India a target of 203 on a pitch that remained sound even as the last ball was bowled an hour before lunch on the fifth day. It was India's seventh successive Test victory at the Feroz Shah Kotla, but the first time they had chased more than 200 to win there.

Shoaib Malik, also at the start of his captaincy career (it was his third Test in charge), chose to bat in hazy conditions. The fog, caused partly by the advent of winter and partly by the traffic, did not lift until after the lunch-break: by tea Pakistan were 142 for eight, and the subject of discussions about whether this was their worst team ever to visit India. Misbah-ul-Haq did his best to silence that argument and eke out a respectable total. The possessor of an MBA, he used his intellect to shepherd the tail, and found good support from Mohammad Sami, who helped him put on 87 for the ninth wicket. After averaging only 17 in his previous seven Tests, spread over six years, Misbah batted for 315 minutes until his mature innings ended in farce. He played a ball from Ganguly to point, and set off for a quick single. Karthik's throw to the bowler's end was accurate, but resulted in a run-out only because Misbah jumped to avoid the ball, and both his feet were off the ground as the ball hit the stumps. It was a cruel way to miss a well-deserved maiden Test century. Four balls later, Sami was left stranded after a patient three-hour innings.

Just how challenging the conditions were for batting was further shown when India stuttered to 93 for five, before a fighting innings by Laxman, so often the man for a crisis, carried them towards an eventual lead. He batted for 245 minutes, and shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 115 with Dhoni. Laxman's chanceless effort was crafted against the backdrop of a campaign to include the in-form Yuvraj Singh, with Laxman's position being debated as much as any. However, adversity seems to bring out the best in "Very Very Special" Laxman - it was the same against Australia at Kolkata in 2000-01 - and while this innings was a long way from his best, it was one of his most important, and set the tone for the series.

The sternest challenge came from Shoaib Akhtar, in his first Test for ten months. He looked reinvigorated after a series of injuries and controversies, and extracted pace and bounce out of a pitch that was sporting, though never quick: and when he claimed all four wickets in the second innings, the scorecard was a fitting illustration of how he had stood out from the rest of the attack.

Pakistan resumed on the fourth day with a lead of 167. Geoff Lawson, their coach, said that a target of 280-300 would test India and give his side the initiative - but once Kamran Akmal fell to the fifth ball of the morning, the rest soon followed, all to poor shots. Even Misbah perished to the first delivery with the new ball - bowled by Ganguly - and an attempted slog over midwicket. The collapse cost Pakistan dearly. India had few scares as they overhauled their target, apart from the early loss of Karthik. There was time for Tendulkar to pass Allan Border's 11,174 runs to move into second place, behind Brian Lara (11,953), on the list of Test run-scorers. Bad light prevented a fourth-day finish, but fewer than seven overs were needed on the final morning.

Man of the Match: A. Kumble.

© John Wisden & Co.