Iqbal frustrates Indians in drawn match

Indians 414 for 7 decl. and 72 for 0 (Jaffer 35*, Gambhir 28*) drew with Pakistan A 358 for 9 decl. (Farhat 107, Iqbal 87, Pathan 3-82)

India's openers flayed some quick runs after tea as the warm-up match against Pakistan A ended in a predictable draw. A superb innings of 87 from Faisal Iqbal and a doughty effort from Zulqarnain Haider had ensured that the Indians would be on the field for most of the day, as bowlers on both sides struggled to get any purchase from an unresponsive pitch.

Iqbal, who once smashed a superb 83 against Australia in Colombo before slipping down the pecking order, struck 16 fours in his 171-ball knock, including some fabulous strokes through cover and down to the sightscreen. But for an impetuous shot, he might well have got the century that his display deserved. He and Haider added 88 runs as they defied the Indians for over two hours.

After a circumspect start following the early losses of Asim Kamal and Mansoor Amjad, both batsmen grew in confidence, blunting the Indian threat with great assurance before and after lunch. On another distinctly chilly morning, it was hard going for the Indians, but RP Singh and Zaheer Khan gave them vital breakthroughs while bowling with far greater control than they had yesterday.

Both bowlers were as parsimonious today as they had been profligate yesterday, finally settling on a restrictive line and length. And both were rewarded with a wicket apiece before the pitch lost whatever little juice it might have had first thing in the morning. Iqbal and Haider defended stolidly in that phase, and then opened out with a sparkling stroke or two as the morning wore on. Neither Ajit Agarkar, the pick of the bowlers yesterday, nor Harbhajan Singh could make an impression, and India were left to await a mistake from two batsmen who were looking increasingly well-entrenched.

Iqbal played some fluent drives, including one tremendous off-drive when Agarkar came on to bowl, and reached his 50 just before lunch with a risky single to cover. Haider, who tonked Harbhajan over midwicket for four, was content to be the foil, and the runs mounted much to the satisfaction of the few hundred spectators who were huddled up and peering through the pickets.

The Indian bowlers lost their discipline after lunch, bowling four-balls at an alarming rate, and Iqbal took full toll before a hook proved to be his downfall. And in conditions where the bowlers would have struggled even to grip the ball properly, even Umar Gul - not known for his batting prowess - helped himself to three fours before Hasan Raza declared to give his bowlers another go at India's storied batting line-up.

There was to be no joy for Pakistan's emerging pace bowlers though, with Wasim Jaffer playing some stonking drives in a splendid little cameo before play was called off. At the other end, Gautam Gambhir struck two sublime cover-drives off Mohammad Irshad, but only after being dropped twice, off Gul and Rao Iftikhar. It remains to be seen which opener will walk out with Virender Sehwag at the Gaddafi Stadium when the real contest begins.

How they were out

Asim Kamal c Dhoni b RP Singh 14 (226 for 5)
Top-edged a pull behind the stumps.

Mansoor Amjad lbw Zaheer 0 (227 for 6)
Played back to a delivery that rapped him in front.

Zulqarnain Haider lbw Pathan 35 (315 for 7)
Trapped in front

Faisal Iqbal c Harbhajan b Agarkar 87 (337 for 8)
Hooked a short delivery straight to the man at deep square leg

Yasir Arafat c Dhoni b RP Singh 9 (358 for 9)
Edged one behind