Cricket is back!
It was the last over of the day and Shoaib Akhtar was brought back to hurl his thunderbolts at the former Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly. On a riveting opening day of the third test between India and Pakistan at Karachi, the most compelling moment for me, was Ganguly scampering back for the second run to face the last ball of the day. In that dash for the second run, he revealed the intent of the visiting Indian team and also his personal relish for a fight. He was saying “I am game, come and get me.”
Well, the caveat is that for the last ball of the day he hung his bat out limply to a full and fast delivery from Akhtar that whizzed by his bat. Such is Sourav! Tomorrow, we may see him slashing one to second slip or top edging one high in the air to fine leg, but there will be drama and you shouldn’t miss it for the world.
Earlier in the morning, in an incredible incisive opening over Irfan Pathan scythed through the Pakistani top order. The ball curled in late like he was bowling, I mean the nine pin game, and not cricket. Pathan has shown in Test matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh that he can be unplayable when he curls it in, but this was against top class opposition and he made them look like school kids playing swing bowling for the first time. Salman Butt, by virtue of being a left hander, escaped looking embarrassed as he edged a perfectly pitched outswinger to the slips. Younis Khan stepped right into the path of another perfect curler and Mohammad Yousuf avoided the lbw, only to see the ball curl around his front foot between the bat and pad and crash into the stumps. It was awesome swing bowling aided by seam movement off pitch. You will never see a more stunning opening over in Test cricket in your entire life.
Zaheer and RP Singh also chipped in with wickets as India reduced Pakistan 39-6. But, the Pakistan team is much improved since the last Indian tour, and Kamran Akmal wasn’t willing to fold so easily. He played all the strokes, the drives, the pulls and the rasping square cuts. He along with Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Akhtar brought Pakistan to a seemingly improbable total of 245. Akmal raced to his century, in the company of a resolute Akhtar. Pakistan have been blessed with some wonderful keeper batsmen like Wasim Bari, Moin Khan, Rashid Latif but Akmal is definitely going to finish with the highest batting average.
Pakistan’s opening bowlers showed that the pitch will continue to offer assistance to the new ball and India was struggling at 74 for 4 by the end of the day. Mohammad Asif bowled a couple of stunning deliveries to account for Dravid and Laxman. Tendulkar was given a fearful clanger on his helmet first ball from Shoaib Akhtar, but after getting a start contrived to get himself dismissed by Abdul Razzaq again. The ball is only 16 overs old and the Pakistanis will be trying to get wickets before the shine disappears while Ganguly and Yuvraj will try to somehow survive the first half an hour and enter the annals of heroes.
Thank goodness Cricket has resumed.