Sami resists with bat after Balaji takes early honours

Associated Press

Rawalpindi, April 13:

Mohammad Sami’s late resistance with the bat lifted to Pakistan to 224 on Tuesday after Laxmi-pathy Balaji and the Indian bowlers dominated the opening sessions of the third and decisive cricket Test. India recovered from Virender Sehwag’s first ball dismissal and progressed to cautious 23 for one in reply at stumps on the first day. Wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel — promoted as opener to accommodate fit-again captain Sourav Ganguly in the side — was batting on 13 while Rahul Dravid was unbeaten on 10.

The pair batted cautiously after speedster Shoaib Akhtar startled the Indian batting lineup when Yasir Hameed held a juggling catch on his third attempt to complete the dismissal of Sehwag. Sami’s career-best 49 and his record-levelling ninth wicket partnership of 70 runs with Fazle Akbar (25) lifted Pakistan total after medium fast Balaji’s four-wicket haul had reduced the hosts to 137/8 on a seaming track. Sami and Akbar defied the Indian bowlers for more than 90 minutes and equalled the previous best Pakistan effort for the ninth wicket against India.

Patel failed to grasp a skier which could have ended Sami’s knock on 34 with the Pakistan total at 203. Four runs later, Akbar offered no stroke off Anil Kumble’s straight delivery and was adjudged lbw. Sami was the last man to go when he attempted a quick single to complete his maiden half century but failed to beat Irfan Pathan’s direct throw from mid-off. Sami’s fighting knock included six fours and he faced 122 balls. Earlier Balaji, 22, playing in only his fourth Test, removed opener Taufeeq Umar (16) and then claimed three wickets in the second session to return 4-63 and help India take early initiative in the series decider.

Ganguly won the toss and his three-pronged seam attack rewarded his decision to bowl first on a green wicket.

Openers Imran Farhat and Umar were regularly beaten by Pathan and Ashish Nehra before Balaji struck, trapping Umar lbw in the 11th over. Pakistan didn’t add to its total before Ashish Nehra angled a ball back into Imran Farhat’s pads and had him adjudged lbw on the last ball of the next over, making it 34 for two. Inzamam (15) and Yasir Hameed (26) added 43 runs for the third wicket but both fell with the total at 77.

VVS Laxman took a well judged head high catch at second slip to dismiss Hameed, while Inzamam carelessly drove at Nehra and was caught behind off a thick outside edge. Balaji took the bulk of wickets in the second session after Yousef Youhana (13) dragged Irfan Pathan’s delivery back onto his stumps. Asim Kamal was out lbw, Kamran Akmal was caught inches off the ground by Laxman in the slips and, two balls later, Balaji knocked back Akhtar’s off stump.