Wed, 09 Mar 2005

From: AFP

Unsung Kamal's brave 91 keeps Pakistan in the match

Manoj Vatsyayana, Agence France-Presse/Mohali, India

Little-known Asim Kamal and Inzamam-ul-Haq saved Pakistan from a batting embarrassment with gutsy half-centuries under pressure in the first Test against India here on Tuesday.

Pakistan were tottering at 30-2 and then 191-6 after being sent to bat on a seamer-friendly track, but left-handed Kamal (91) and skipper Inzamam (57) came to their team's rescue with responsible knocks.

Pakistan were all out for 312 in their first innings just before the scheduled close on the opening day. India will bat on Wednesday.

Kamal, who scored 99 on his Test debut against South Africa at Lahore two years ago, missed out on a century again when he was bowled by seamer Laxmipathi Balaji.

Balaji, out of Test cricket for nearly a year due to injury, made an impressive comeback with 5-76, his maiden five-wicket haul in six Tests.

India had seized the initiative in the first two sessions when they grabbed six wickets on a lively pitch, with fast bowlers Irfan Pathan and Balaji claiming two scalps apiece.

Kamal then launched a vigorous counter-attack to restore Pakistan's fortunes, smashing 14 fours in his fifth half-century in seven Tests.

The 28 year old rallied his team with two useful stands, adding 52 for the fifth wicket with his captain and 48 for the seventh with Kamran Akmal (15).

Kamal offered one difficult chance on 79 when he drove leg- spinner Anil Kumble, but Venkatsai Laxman failed to latch on to the ball in the cover region.

Barring this lapse, Kamal batted with confidence against both pace and spin to hold the innings together.

Kamal was not the only batsman to apply himself well on a grassy pitch which had both pace and movement as Inzamam was the first to keep India's pace-oriented attack at bay with his fluent 37th half-century.

India had to rely on veteran Kumble to end Inzamam's flourish but failed to make short work of Pakistan's lower-order batting led by Kamal.

Kumble, the lone spinner in the side, trapped Inzamam leg- before and then accounted for Akmal to finish with 2-76.

Pakistan's early batting woes began against pace as Pathan and Balaji made the most of a seaming track to sustain their team's hopes of restricting the tourists to a modest total.

India skipper Sourav Ganguly's decision to put Pakistan in to bat produced the desired result as Pathan and Zaheer Khan shared the first two wickets to reduce the tourists to 30-2.

Balaji then removed well-set Taufeeq Umar (44), who inside- edged a delivery on to his stumps just before lunch.

Pakistan lost one more big wicket after the break when reliable Yousuf Youhana (6) fell to a soft dismissal, edging an away-going delivery from Pathan straight to wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.

Playing their first Test series in India since 1999, Pakistan were off to a shaky start as Salman Butt and Younis Khan fell cheaply.

Pathan struck in his fourth over when he dismissed Butt (five), who was bowled off-stump playing across the line. Younis (nine) also did not last long, trapped leg-before by Zaheer with the one that nipped back.

Inzamam then steadied the innings with a 59-run stand for the third wicket with Umar.