<
>

The 450th time

Pakistan had pretty much saved the game, but Anil Kumble kept running in hard. Mohammad Sami thought he'd have a go at this tired man, took a step-and-a-half down the pitch, and drove him powerfully through mid-off. Er, it should have gone through mid-off, but a hand appeared in the frame and caught the ball, and Kumble's body followed to the ground, his mouth opening in astonishment as the ball settled in his hand. Then he sat cross-legged and started laughing, his shoulders wiggling gently. This was his 314th ball of the innings; far more importantly, it was the 450th wicket of a great, under-appreciated career. All the players gathered around this man they loved and admired, and waited for the action replay on the big screen. (AV)

Razzaq's blow

The match had still not been absolutely saved. Pakistan were leading by 185, but a wicket then could still trigger a collapse. Abdul Razzaaq, a picture of rectitude and self denial for much of his remarkable innings, succumbs to the temptation. The ball from Kumble was been tossed up, the Razzaq gets it on the outer half and sends it soaring, not straight, but up. An entire stadium holds its breath and waits as Ganguly, gives chase from mid-on. He runs, runs and runs, but Ganguly is no Mohammed Kaif, and it all ends with him sprawled on the ground, the ball having fallen a few feet ahead him. It was a picture that described India s story of the day, almost there, but not there. The next ball described Pakistan's. Kumble threw it up again, and Razzaq took one step down the track and bat came down on the ball, heavy and hard, hitting it from the middle this time, and up it went, this time flat and straight, to the left of the sight screen. Almost all day Pakistan battled to save the Test, but never did they take a step backward. When the ball was there for the hit, it was hit.

A blow to end two careers

On a day when the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman in the game confirmed the destructive nature of his skill, another of his brethren on the other side of the world, in similar circumstances was busy serving up notice of his talent.

When Kamran Akmal resumed after lunch today, he was unbeaten on 75 and fighting cramp. At the end of the second over after tea, he went down, stretching and eventually needing treatment. Soon after, he ran hard for two and again went down. He got up and first swept, then late cut Kumble for successive fours to move onto 99. Would he blink? Not a chance; he played out eight dot balls, before coolly driving Kumble through the covers to bring up a maiden Test century.

As a wicketkeeper, he was already widely acknowledged as one of the best going, although his batting ensured that Moin and Rashid were always in the frame. But with that one shot, he may have achieved what match-fixing, various captains, player politics and poor form have been unable to: end both their international careers. (OS)

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo. He writes the independent blogs, India Uncut and The Middle Stage.

Osman Samiuddin is a freelance writer working in Karachi. He will be following the Pakistan team all tour.