Venkatsai Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni cracked responsible half-centuries to pull India out of trouble in the opening Test against Pakistan on Friday.
The hosts had slipped from 71-1 to 93-5 in the space of seven overs before Dhoni (57) counter-attacked to put on 115 for the sixth wicket with Laxman on a day of fluctuating fortunes.
India reached 228-6 in their first innings at stumps on the second day in reply to Pakistan’s 231, with Laxman batting on a stylish 57 and skipper Anil Kumble on seven.
Pakistan bounced back into the match after posting a modest total when fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanvir shared four quick wickets to put India on the back foot in the afternoon.
But wicket-keeper Dhoni restored the balance with his hard and clean hitting under pressure in the last session. He outscored Laxman during their big stand, reaching his seventh half-century before his experienced partner.
Laxman looked solid at the other end, patiently waiting for the loose deliveries to punish. There was never a moment of uncertainty during his 30th half-century, which contained seven fours.
Dhoni eventually fell playing one stroke too many. He attempted a big shot off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, but could not time it properly and was caught behind. He struck eight fours in his 93-ball knock.
Laxman’s stand with Dhoni came at the right time for India, whose top-order batsmen found Akhtar and debutant Tanvir too hot to handle, even on a good pitch.
Akhtar rattled the hosts when he had Dinesh Karthik (nine) caught behind in an incisive opening spell before trapping Wasim Jaffer (32) leg-before.
India suffered a setback when Sachin Tendulkar (one) was run out going for a second run, with partner Rahul Dravid not responding. He slipped and then turned back, but failed to beat a Mohammad Yousuf throw to the wicket-keeper.
Tanvir, a left-arm seamer with a wrong-footed action, removed former captains Sourav Ganguly (eight) and Dravid (38), who were bowled playing a wrong line.
Dravid looked set for a long innings before being surprised by a delivery that knocked back the off-stump. He put on 56 for the second wicket with Jaffer.
Pakistan added 21 to their overnight total of 210-8 before being all out, with tail-ender Mohammad Sami remaining unbeaten with 28.
India were fortunate to break a stubborn 87-run stand for the ninth wicket between Sami and middle-order batsman Misbah-ul-Haq, who was run out after adding 11 to his overnight score of 71.
Misbah tried to beat a Kartik throw from point, but both his feet and bat were in the air when the ball hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
India would have been relieved to see the back of Misbah, who had defied the hosts’ attack for more than five hours, hitting one six and six fours in his 243-ball knock.
Leg-spinner Kumble ended the innings when he bowled last-man Kaneria for a duck to finish with 4-38 in his first Test as captain. — AFP