Sunday, December 2, 2007

Akmal keeps the faith

we're not quite sure what gets into their heads but there is definitely something about pakistani wicket-keepers that makes them play out of their skins against india. the pakistani think-tank needs to be commended for persisting with a man whose neck has, for some time, been on the chopping block.

yesterday, akmal did to the indian attack what he has done just as brilliantly a couple of times in the past, most memorably, at mohali and karachi. and akmal is not the only pakistani keeper the indians have had trouble against.

during the 80s, the feisty salim yousuf often reserved some of his better performances for india. then, there was the inaugural match of the short-lived, poorly conceived asian test championships in which pakistan were reduced to 6/26 on the first morning only for moin khan to kick-start one of the greatest rearguard actions in the history of cricket and give his team the much-needed fillip to come back and win the test match.

that match, though, is most remembered for a young shoaib akhtar's double strike to castle rahul dravid and sachin tendulkar of consecutive deliveries - oh, how the mighty have fallen - and the disgraceful reaction of the eden crowd to a disputed 'sachin run-out' in the second innings that resulted in the match being completed in front of empty stands. will we see more of the same if kumble's indians contrive to somehow lose this one? in the current climate of commendable bhai-chara and neighbourly love we seriously doubt it.

anyway, the whole point of this trip down memory lane is to...well, point out that such are the problems indian teams have historically had against keepers from across the border. in the light of which, it seems only right that akmal delivered a long overdue big one. after all, it's rare for an indo-pak series to be completed without a notable contribution from a pakistani wicket-keeper.

truth be told, we're glad the simple, unassuming akmal, finally, decided to make his presence felt in a series that was rapidly turning into a terribly one-sided one. thankfully, for the jittery indians, he didn't take it too far. (had india not managed to get rid of akmal just before close of play, they would have had a bit too much to think about.)

the way things stand, it looks likely that india will go on to dismiss the pakistanis for less than 416 and enforce the follow on. (will they? we think yes.) and if they do, the question most indians will be confronted with is what if the two Ys and the ever-consistent misbah fire together? and what if akmal is still not done? will india be left chasing a tricky target on a crumbling fifth day wicket? thanks to akmal, misbah and india, the second test looks poised for a thrilling finish.

the eden crowd, meanwhile, holds on to its projectiles, and hearts, with bated breath.

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