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Day 2 at Mohali: Sehwag flays Pakistani attack


95, and still going

By Captain of Bhangra
March 9 2005

The task for the Indian team on the second day at Mohali was to build on the foundations laid by the seam bowlers yesterday. Balaji had been the hero with five wickets on the opening day and India needed some one to pull off a similar performance with the willow. For many Indian fans, this was have been the most anticipated part of the match, as the famed Indian batting line up took on a Pakistani bowling attack that looked weakened on paper. Fans would have to wait for the show as over two and half hours of play were lost to rain, and more so, in Pakistan's favour, the grey dull atmosphere seemed to indicate trouble ahead for India's openers against any swing that Pakistani bowlers could extract. Early on in the innings, Gautam Gambhir edged the first ball from Sami past the slips, to reach the ropes, and the show had begun.

Virender Sehwag seemed determined to make up for lost time, and began in his trademark fashion, reminiscent of Multan last year where he made 309 in the first test against the very same opposition.

Inzamam was immediately facing problems in how to set the field, and the worries were compounded when a regulation slip catch was spilled by Taufeeq Umar off Virender Sehwag - someone who always makes teams pay for drops. Pakistan were well aware that mistake in the field could cost them heavily and Sehwag followed by opening up with a few scorching cover drives.

Gambhir took his cue from his partner and provided excellent support, working the ball around with soft hands and taking the singles whenever possible. With the youngster feeding Sehwag the strike and Sehwag gleefully cashing in on Sami and Rana's inconsistency, India were ruthlessly gunning at a rate of over 6 an over, and reached 61 for no loss after 10 overs, before Danish Kaneria was brought in to try and snare a wicket in the final over before tea.

The gamble might have worked, as Gambhir charged Kaneria - but the southpaw smashed the ball straight down the ground over the bowler's head for a one-bounce four, before Pakistan finally went to tea for a brief respite from the Sehwag onslaught.

After tea, it was unsure whether the task was to consolidate and score steadily, or continue the attack. The crowd was made sure by an assault that saw 13 runs scored in the next over after tea, and Sehwag soon reached his 50 at less than a run a ball. The opening partnership continued to plunder the Pakistan attack, which minus Kaneria, looked threadbare and woefully inadequate at test level.

Pakistan finally were gifted a respite, when Kaneria was back brought into the attack and wildly charged by Gambhir, who holed out to Naved-ul-Hasan at mid on for a brisk 41. By that time, the Delhi duo had scored 113 runs at an astonishing rate of 6.58 an over.

Rahul Dravid's arrival saw a period of consolidation, as sweepers were employed to cut Sehwag's boundaries off, and the two batsmen opted to first forge a partnership and restore momentum. While the Wall played some fine shots, notably a few glorious clips through midwicket off his pads, the strike wasn't turned over with the same frequency as was shown with the previous partnership, as the scoring rate declined to between 4.5 and 5 an over, choked by some fine bowling from Danish Kaneria who bowled a tight line, getting good turn and bounce from the wicket.

By stumps, Sehwag, who had reached 50 off 49, was on 95 off 121, a considerable deceleration - but one that also showed his increasing maturity, as it became increasingly clear that Sehwag's intent on beginning another series with a massive score - bad signs for Pakistan. Dravid had grafted his way to 39 off 80 by stumps, and with India 184/1 and these two at the crease, neither Inzamam nor Woolmer might enjoy a good night's sleep.

Pakistan will need to pull something special out of the bag on day 3 to swing fortunes their way. Mohammed Sami, the figurehead of the attack, was the worst offender, and was taken to the cleaners during the explosive partnership by Sehwag and Gambhir. He went wicketless for 55 off only 8 overs, figures that would be appalling in one day cricket. Kaneria was the pick of the bowlers, taking 1-37 off 13 overs - figures though that don't do justice to the superb control and variation he showed while pegging the run rate back.

If Laxmipathy Balaji was the hero yesterday, then today Mr. Sehwag, take a bow.

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