<
>

The Sehwag factor, and butterfingered Pakistan

  • The first Test match of a crucial series, and Virender Sehwag was at it again, snatching the initiative early in the piece. Before this Test, Sehwag averaged 64 in the 10 opening Tests of series (compared to his career average of 51), but his stats are even more impressive in the first innings of first Tests - 937 runs at an incredible average of 93.70, with four hundreds and a fifty. In fact, Sehwag sounded out his penchant for first-innings scores on his debut, scoring 105 against a strong South African team at Bloemfontein. He followed that with 84 in the first innings of the first Test at Lord's in 2002, while his other memorable performances in first-innings of the series openers have been 147 against West Indies at Mumbai in 2002-03, 309 against Pakistan at Multan last year, and 164 against South Africa at Kanpur earlier this season.

  • Sehwag has for a long time now silenced critics who questioned his ability to play the new ball, but here's more proof of how much India have profited by his move to the top of the order. Since Sehwag started opening, the first wicket stand has yielded 42.66 runs per innings, with seven partnerships of over 100; in the 18 months prior to that, India's first-wicket managed a paltry 24.33, with only one century stand in 22 innings.

  • Pakistan ended the second day completely in the doldrums, but things could have been different had Taufeeq Umar snaffled Sehwag when the batsman was on 15. In fact, catching has been Pakistan's Achilles Heel for a while now, and the stats confirm that the problem is a severe one for Pakistan - since 2003, they have, on an average, dropped almost 2.5 catches per match, and only England and West Indies have done worse.

  • For Mohammad Sami, it was another entirely forgettable day. Sami started his Test career in magnificent fashion, taking 8 for 106 on debut, but since then, he has done little to fulfil that potential which shone through in his first match. The numbers look especially dismal in his last 11 Tests - 27 wickets at a shocking average of 54.74. With Shabbir Ahmed, Umar Gul, Iftikhar Anjum and plenty of others waiting for a chance, this series could well be Sami's last opportunity to translate potential into performance.

  • Rahul Dravid has now played 87 Tests on the trot since his debut, and is fourth on the list of players to have played most consecutive matches. Allan Border leads the way with an incredible 153 games in a row, while Mark Waugh and Sunil Gavaskar are next in line.

    S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo. For some of the data, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan, the operations manager in Cricinfo's Chennai office.