Cricinfo: Australia v India 2007-08Cricinfo Capgemini

2nd Test: India v Pakistan at Kolkata, Nov 30-Dec 4, 2007

Misbah and Akmal thwart India

Wasim Jaffer

Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal batted for over two sessions to help Pakistan to 358 for 6 at the close of the third day at Eden Gardens. The pair put on 207 runs for the sixth wicket, notching up a century each and taking Pakistan to the brink of saving the follow-on, and perhaps the Test.

The pair had come together just before lunch, with Pakistan in serious strife. Akmal was the go-getter from the start. 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.

The further he progressed, however, the more strokes came out. His back-foot play, the cut and pull in particular, flowered first, as he marked significant moments with one of each: a cut brought up the fifty partnership and Pakistan's 200 soon after mid-day drinks, an emphatic pull as tea beckoned brought up his own fifty and another forcing cut brought up his fifth hundred (and fourth against India) before drinks in the final session.

Had Munaf Patel held on to an edged hook on 87, Akmal may not have had a chance to show one and all his love for the drive. As India took the new ball, that chance apart, Akmal drove Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan relentlessly straight and through cover until eventually, he was deceived by Harbhajan.

Misbah continued from where he had left in Delhi, at once appearing Pakistan's most sensible and best batsman. Spurred on initially 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.

After lunch, he settled for the day, content mostly to defend and occasionally to nudge and pinch runs. Obstacles were placed in his way, most notably whenever Zaheer Khan pitched short. One steepler after lunch ballooned off his edge and in the 90s, after tea, his ribs were given a solid working over.

But those periods apart, Misbah capped his sudden rise to the front ranks of Pakistan's batting. There weren't many shots later, but whenever he chose to play them, he did so with minimum fuss. A cut off Patel in the 90s was efficiently done, while the clip to square leg off Kumble would've been remembered similarly, had it not brought up his maiden hundred.


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