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Misbah and Akmal defy India

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Pakistan finally won their first session of the second Test at the Eden Gardens as Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal batted unscathed through the afternoon, putting on a punchy 106. At 256 for 5, they are still firmly behind the eight ball and pushed to the cushion, but finally, there emerged some fight. It was much-needed, coming after India had won the morning session hands down, Harbhajan Singh leading Pakistan’s batsmen on a merry dance.

Misbah and Akmal had come together just before lunch, as Pakistan threatened to go in to meltdown at 150 for 5. But they batted precisely with the kind of stubbornness and gumption those who went before them didn’t really show, in the process notching up a pair of fifties.

Misbah continued from where he had left in Delhi, at once appearing Pakistan’s most sensible and best batsman. Spurred on by Younis Khan’s daredevilry, he took educated risks before lunch, lofting Anil Kumble over midwicket, slog-sweeping and flashing through slips. He was dropped by Sachin Tendulkar, a difficult chance at midwicket, after which the situation’s gravity - and requirement - seemed to hit home. The shot of his innings right after it was the most correct: a drive past mid-off on one knee.

After lunch, he settled down, content mostly to defend and occasionally to nudge singles and pinch doubles. He was troubled rarely, once by a sudden steepler from Zaheer Khan, and in due course, brought up a pleasant fifty. Later, a brute from Munaf Patel induced an edge, though it went through for four and brought up the hundred partnership.

Akmal, meanwhile, put his miseries behind the stumps firmly behind him and buckled down to play his most assured hand in some time. It helped that he took his time to settle, to assess threats, the situation and run-scoring options. He began by sweeping Harbhajan and continued using that shot to good effect through the afternoon, only getting finer with each attempt.

His back-foot play, the cut and pull in particular, remain the staple of any Akmal knock and he marked significant moments with one of each: one cut brought up the fifty partnership and Pakistan’s 200 soon after mid-day drinks, while an emphatic pull as tea beckoned brought up his own fifty. As he punched Kumble through extra cover, memories of his Indian heroics (he has three hundreds and two fifties against them) and in particular the Mohali rearguard re-emerged.

Earlier in the morning, Harbhajan had threatened to embarrass Pakistan. Though India deserved and enjoyed collective success, it was Harbhajan who defined the session. Pakistan had made an uncomplicated start, but Harbhajan was giving the ball considerably more loop than he has lately, though if it’s not done with your team 600 runs to the good, then it will never be done.

He was getting turn as well: twice, Butt resisted the temptation to drive balls going across him, but the third time the charm couldn’t be resisted. Harbhajan lured Butt in to a drive, Butt flicked his wrists and Rahul Dravid at slip completed the process.

The big fish was reeled in Harbhajan’s next over. Mohammad Yousuf had brought out the style early but Harbhajan deceived him in classic manner. He offered flight to drive, before putting one in quicker. It spun sharply and straight through a drive as Pakistan’s morning darkened.

Younis fought a brief, reckless battle. Runs came freely against attacking fields, but reverse sweeps and heaves over midwicket were high-risk ways of going about it. Living by the sword meant dying by it, as a poor shot to an even poorer ball from Munaf got only an edge. Kumble trapped a clueless Faisal Iqbal and Pakistan were staring abject humiliation in its face, until Misbah and Akmal pulled them away from it just a little.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 2nd, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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