Day One: A Fairy Tale Beginning for Team India

cricket.bmpThe morning fog was hovering over Firoz Shah Kotla and the mist glazing the grass. Overcast conditions and the grass on the pitch were shouting out one simple thing, “If you win the toss today and if you have fast bowlers on your team, please bowl first!! You will get a lot of wickets.”But surprisingly

Pakistan won the toss and decided to bat despite having such a brilliant pace attack. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami were sure to get swing and movement and with their pace they would have proven to be lethal, even to the classy Indian batting order consisting of big guns VVS Laxman, Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and the one they call “the wall”, Rahul Dravid. Indians took on the field under their new captain Anil Kumble and quickly got into top gear. Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel bowled the first spell of the match and Khan made the first break through into the

Pakistan top order on the last ball of the 5th over. He clean bowled Salman Butt who had scored only 1 run. Younis Khan was the next to fall to Zaheer when he tried pull a short pitched ball and got caught out by Munaf Patel in the deep. With 35 runs on the board for the loss of 2 wickets

Pakistan was tottering. Then came Saurav Ganguly with his military medium pace bowling to keep a tight leash on

Pakistan. His out swingers were not only making life difficult for the batsmen he looked in the mood to take wickets. But this was only support, which he was giving to captain Anil Kumble who was making life really miserable. Just a few overs before lunch Kumble struck with a ‘googly’ to clean bowl Pakistani opener Hameed. At 59 for 3 things were not at all looking good for

Pakistan who barely managed 74 runs by lunch time. Indians were right on the button after lunch with Ganguly picking up the wicket of M Yousif making the total 76 for 4. Then came the Pakistani captain Shoaib Malik who got out for a duck to Munaf Patel. Soon after that big blow to

Pakistan, Kamran Akhmal and

S Tanvir got out in quick succession to Kumble and Harbhajan respectively. Harbhajan got Tanvir with an lbw. Pakistan were thus in already in a tight spot when Shoaib Akhtar walked out smiling to the middle, only to get clean bowled by Kumble just after scoring 2 runs. Surprisingly Kumble took all his three wickets by clean bowling his batsmen. Tea was declared and

Pakistan was 142 for 8. Post tea session was probably the only saving grace for

Pakistan in the day’s play. They did not lose any wickets and Misbah and Sami put up a substantial partnership of 68 runs out of 190 balls. Misbah scored his first test half century and is still standing tough at 71 runs which he scored in 204 balls under difficult conditions. Sami is giving him solid support at the other end by scoring 20 runs off 77 balls. Sami’s confidence with the bat was evident when he hit a whooping six off Ganguly’s ball in the 80th over which put all doubts on his batting ability to rest. But, the real disaster for

India came in the 84th over when Misbah was dropped by Harbhajan Sigh.

Pakistan was at 208 runs at the loss of 8 wickets and Misbah was at a score of 69. Although the opportunity came towards the close of the day’s play, it would have ensured the dismissal of

Pakistan within 220 runs or less. That was first glitch in the Indian fielding. While the medium pacers got enormous help from the wicket, there was some turn in the pitch for the spinners to operate. This is where Indian batsmen must keep in mind that

Pakistan has a stronger pace battery which can and will do damage if not tackled well. Indian batsmen have to be wary of the fast bowlers especially in the 1st hour the day’s play tomorrow soon after they get the last two batsmen out. The pitch will continue to assist the fast bowlers till the 3rd day and this time, it will be our batsmen and their fast bowlers.However, it was a good effort by the Indians on the field today in all departments of the game. Strangely Pakistani players played as if they were trying to save the test match on the very first day. Kumble on his first test match as captain picked up 3 wickets by giving 38 runs in his 20 overs, Zaheer also picked up 2 wickets denting the

Pakistan top order. Zaheer, Munaf Patel and Ganguly bowled to a consistent line and length even after the wicket stopped supporting them and kept up the good work. Indian fielders were supporting their bowlers by some stunning fielding performances even in the absence of players like Yuvraj Singh. Well done team

India! Vijay Krishna