Ton-up Akmal masterminds Pakistan escape in first India Test
by AFP

Ground:Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Player:Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, A Kumble, Asim Kamal
Event:Pakistan in India 2004/05

DateLine: 12th March 2005


Pakistan found an unlikely saviour in Kamran Akmal to snatch a creditable draw from the jaws of defeat in the opening Test against India here.


Pakistan faced defeat when they resumed batting on the fifth and final morning as they were 53 ahead with last four wickets in hand, but Akmal turned the match upside-down with his superb maiden Test century under pressure on Saturday.


The wicketkeeper-batsman, 23, exceeded expectations as he slammed a solid 109 in only his 11th match to help his team post a massive 496-9 declared in the second innings, their highest total in India.


Pakistan batted more than two sessions to shatter India's hopes of victory in the first match of a three-Test series, thanks to unsung Akmal's resolute batting.


India finished the day at 85-1 after being set an improbable target of 293 runs off 25 overs, with Virender Sehwag scoring 36 and Gautam Gambhir an unbeaten 32.


Pakistan gained a big psychological boost ahead of the second Test in Calcutta with their gutsy lower-order batting, led by Akmal, after being under pressure on the first four days of the match.


Akmal led the remarkable recovery as he steered his team to safety with a record 184-run stand with Abdul Razzaq, a free-stroking batsman who curbed his shots in his team's interest. Razzaq scored 71 off 260 balls.


The partnership was Pakistan's best for the seventh wicket against India, surpassing the previous highest of 154 between Imran Khan and Ijaz Faqih at Ahmedabad in 1986.


Akmal became only the second Pakistani wicket-keeper after Imtiaz Ahmed (1960-61) to score a Test hundred against India when he fluently drove leg-spinner Anil Kumble through the covers for his 15th four.


It was a demoralising day for India, who were in a winning position on Friday but had to toil under the sun for more than three hours for their first wicket.


With wickets hard to come by, pressure kept mounting on India and their bowlers steadily lost confidence and direction. The hosts conceded as many as 52 extras, including 13 wides and two no-balls.


A minor consolation was that Kumble became the fifth Test bowler to complete 450 wickets after Australians Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan and retired West Indies paceman Courtney Walsh.


Fast bowler Laxmipathy Balaji finished with nine wickets in his comeback match and Kumble with six, but they failed to deliver when their team needed it most.


When Akmal was caught driving by substitute fielder Harbhajan Singh in the cover off Balaji in the post-lunch session, Pakistan had saved the game as they were 223 runs in front.


India had few chances to break the match-saving stand between Akmal and Razzaq on a fifth-day track which was still good for batting as it had neither bounce for pacemen nor turn for spinners.


Akmal was on 45 when his mis-timed drive off left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan eluded the outstretched hand of Venkatsai Laxman at second slip.


Razzaq survived on 50 when he tried to loft Kumble over mid-on, where skipper Sourav Ganguly ran back nearly 15 yards but could get only his finger-tips to the ball. He then smashed the next ball for a six over long-on.

(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)


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