Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ball in India's court

only one team can save this test match. and while this might sound odder than a chinaman to the untrained ear, that team is not pakistan.

after being fortunate enough to have won the toss and batted first on a wicket flatter than a permanently pressed bespoke shirt-front, the home team have left the visitors with the mammoth task of scoring over 400 runs to save the follow-on and the series.

and yet - if only for the purposes of re-iterating how clever we are - it'll be down to india take 20 wickets and save us from enduring a high-scoring snorefest. but for that, they'll have to get past some historically troublesome ifs and Ys.

in the two Ys, younis and yousuf, pakistan have masterful players of spin bowling who, rather surprisingly, missed out at kotla and will be determined to partake of the run-feast the indians have gorged themselves on.

apart from his monumental 267 in bangalore to set up a series levelling win during pakistan tour of india in 2005, younis also made 147 at Kolkata and a pair of centuries during India's trip to Pakistan in 2006. as is clear from his record, his will be a wicket kumble and company will fervently hope they can snaffle soon tomorrow.

yousuf hit nine centuries in 2006, which is a world record for most centuries in a calendar year and also equalled bradman's record of scoring six centuries in successive Tests – although it took him only five matches to do it. he was also among pakistan's top run-getters in the just concluded odis.

it would be foolish on india's part to expect these two big match, big knock badshahs to be as generous as the profligate pakistani bowling attack has been so far.

in addition to the two Ys, regular readers of our views will already know how high an opinion we have of salman butt, who's still there. sadly, for us, our other favoured young guns from pakistan, shoaib malik and shahid afridi are not. good on india.

all this to say, it'll be captain kumble who'll have to do muost of the running in order to find ways to put it across some formidable obstacles that still stand in the way of a series clinching win for team india.

kumble has often said that he finds it much easier to take wickets once the batsmen have put runs on the board. well, we'll see how easy. his batsmen have played their part. it's now up-to kumble, and the other bowlers, to take this match by the...umm, balls and turn it. for if they don't, the two Ys are quite capable of batting their way to what might be a face-saving, series-turning draw.

if pakistan do manage to bat their way out of the hole their half-baked attack has dug them into, they'll go into the next test on a huge high. and we all know what younis khan did the last time these two teams met in bangalore.

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