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    March 21, 2005

    Pakistan find Kumble too hot to handle at Eden Gardens

    A superb display of spin bowling from Anil Kumble resulted in a comprehensive win for India at Calcutta, the first time India had beaten Pakistan at this venue. Set to make 422 to win, Pakistan were all out for 226 with Kumble taking 7/63 which gave him match figures of 10/161. India now lead 1-0 with one more test to go, at Bangalore next week.

    Pakistan would have hoped for their middle-order of the two Ys, who had made centuries in the first innings, Inzamam and Asim Kamal to take them to a position around tea-time from where they could have contemplated an assault on the target. At tea, the Pakistani batsmen at the crease were the two opening bowlers, two Ms instead of two Ys, Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Khalil. Pakistan's hopes were snuffed out well before lunch after Kumble struck in the very first ball of the day. Younis Khan was stumped brilliantly by Karthik down the legside, a very difficult take first up. Inzamam flattered to deceive yet again. He looked very tentative and Kumble cashed in on his defensive approach. Only 20 runs were added in nine more overs and Inzamam's approach caused his dismissal, the ball going off bat and pad onto the stumps. The crowd had barely settled in their seats then and more was to follow the very next ball with Balaji finding Taufeeq Umar's edge and for once, a slip catch was taken.

    Asim Kamal and Youhana then tried to mend the innings and looked quite assured. Obviously Pakistan's aim was to bat out for a draw now. Lunch was taken at 174/4 and all that was needed from the batsmen was common sense since the pitch was not playing any tricks at all. Kumble's focussed, relentless aggression paid off when Youhana was out soon after lunch, caught by Gambhir at forward short-leg. Razzaq joined Kamal, who has looked the most comfortable of the Pakistani batsmen this series. One huge six off Kumble was all he managed with the bowler having the last laugh courtesy a trademark fizzing delivery which flattened the offstump. It was all over bar the shouting and India's position was made plainly obvious by Harbhajan Singh's antics. He had not played any role in the proceedings so far even though he had bowled very tightly, ensuring that the batsmen were always under pressure from both ends.

    Harbhajan looped in an off-break to Asim Kamal who went down on one knee to slog him over midwicket. The bowler then put his arms up on his head and looked disappointed and applauded the shot. He asked the fielder to get the ball. The ball had gone nowhere. The batsman had missed the ball totally and the wicket-keeper had the ball firmly in control. Asim Kamal looked away sheepishly for a while and then broke out into a grin. Harbhajan's doosra then accounted for Kamran Akmal and shortly after he reached his half-century, Asim Kamal was caught nicely by Kaif, substituting for the injured Laxman, at short-leg. A couple of slogs by Sami then happened and he was caught plumb in front by Kumble. Harbhajan then fooled Kaneria with another doosra and it was all over shortly after tea.

    There were many candidates for the man of the match award: Dravid for his century in each innings, Dinesh Karthik for his 93 & his wicket-keeping and Kumble for his superb bowling. If Dravid's was a batting masterclass, Kumble's was a bowling masterclass. He bowled almost unchanged through the day, took a wicket every five overs or so and conceded less than two runs an over. In the end, Dravid's two knocks, especially the second, had put India in the position they were in at the end of the fourth day and so he was named man of the match.

    Pakistan has a lot to work on and they dont have too much time. Their batting is quite decent but their bowling is in tatters. Sami has done little in the series, barring his spell on the morning of the fourth day. Khalil bowled a total of 23 overs in the game, just more than what part-timers Razzaq and Afridi bowled in India's first innings. Kaneria has bowled with heart but little to show, as 12 wickets at an average of 36 would indicate. In fact his three wickets in India's second innings were quite meaningless considering that India were well in control and were in fact slogging the bowling around. They need to bring in Arshad Khan since you cant go into a test in India on nice batting wickets with one specialist spinner. Afridi did his job on the first day but was ineffective later on. There is a lack of variety in the spin options Inzamam has. Kaneria, Afridi and Younis Khan, all bowl legspin. Who do they drop to accomodate the off-spinner? Khalil? Do they play at Bangalore with Razzaq opening the bowling? What happens if India wins the toss and bats first?

    India has problems too. Ganguly has not contributed with the bat and while this victory would have kept the wolves at bay, another failure at Bangalore, notwithstanding the final result, will increase the clarion calls for Yuvraj or Kaif to replace him. Harbhajan was ineffective until the tail fell to his doosra. Now that he has been re-reported, he will be under tremendous pressure the next time he bowls in an international. Pathan and Zaheer have been off-colour in the series and the only reason you'd pick Pathan ahead of Zaheer is because he can bat batter.

    If Bangalore also gives us a test match as wonderful as this one was, test cricket's revival in India will be well on track.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 9:56 AM |
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