Opening batsman Wasim Jaffer made most of a beautiful batting track and a completely impotent Pakistani attack at the Eden Gardens to get India to a dominating 352 for 3. Jaffer got 192 out of those runs which came at a thick pace which badly has affected the morale of the Pakistani camp which is struggling with a few unfit players. Captain Shoaib Malik is missing this Test with his ankle injury and Shoaib Akhtar is playing but has underperformed for his team.
India was so lucky to win a good toss which enabled them to bat first. The wicket seemed to have nothing for the seamers although it was an early start of 9:00 AM and for the spinners, they had to wait for the wear and tear to come into play. The hosts remained unchanged and Pakistan made one change with Faisal Iqbal coming in for Malik. With the first ball of his spell which was in the second over of the match, left armer Sohail Tanvir struck gold right away taking the wicket of a struggling Dinesh Karthik. A full length delivery sucked him into a false drive which turned out to be a nice edge to the slips and Karthik lasted just the three balls just avoiding a duck. Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid then got into the act of repairing the early damage and they didn’t find any threat at all from the bowlers with Shoaib Akhtar not fit enough to bowl the long spells. By lunch, India looked solid at 104 for 1 with Jaffer racing away to 65 and Dravid on 35.
In the post lunch session, Rahul Dravid was very fortunate not to get run out although he was a long way away from reaching the crease. A poor throw from the Pakistanis allowed him to have breather. However, Dravid couldn’t last long as he was robbed off from getting a good score because of a huge umpiring blunder. Dravid attempted a cover drive off Kaneria and missed out completely with his bat hitting the turf with a bang. Kamran Akmal took the ball on the second attempt and had a vociferous appeal which fooled the Umpire Billy Doctrove to give a shocking decision. Dravid (50 from 118 balls with 7 fours) left the field with an unhappy face and his dismissal had India at 138 for 2. Pakistan weren’t allowed to get back into the game after that as Jaffer continued to play like he was doing all morning and Tendulkar joining the party. Runs kept on coming at a good pace as both batsmen never felt any pressure being exerted on them. They comfortably took India to 206 for 2 at Tea in 55 overs. Jaffer recorded his fifth test match hundred in that session facing just 150 balls!
Pakistan were struggling with Shoaib Akhtar feeling very weak and not able to give his 100%. His speeds were very low and his bowling looked very easy for the Indian batsmen. The other bowlers too lacked any penetration. Out of nowhere in the final session, Sami got one to lift up and take the gloves off Sachin Tendulkar in an attempted cut shot which went towards Kamran Akmal. But that was grassed down giving Tendulkar a life on a personal score of 28. That was enough for Sachin to cash on and work his way towards a big score. The biggest shock came after sometime as Sohail Tanvir was asked to bowl spin rather than pace! That hardly worked and the Indians marched towards a commanding total of 300 plus.
Runs were just being gifted away by the Pakistanis through lose deliveries and some sloppy club level fielding display. Jaffer and Tendulkar played some breathtaking shots as well every now and then. In the 76th over, Pakistan finally found the breakthrough with Sachin Tendulkar surprisingly not picking up the wrong one from Danish Kaneria to get his furniture disturbed. Tendulkar (82 from 109 balls with 12 fours) was going for a big booming drive through the covers against the turn which did his downfall. India were still in a great position at 313 for 3. Ganguly, the local hero walked in with a huge roar from the 60,000 strong crowd to face a difficult test of batting through till the close.
The light was fading away quickly at Kolkata and it was just matter of few minutes for the pair of Jaffer and Ganguly to negotiate before the close. Ganguly survived some loud lbw shouts from Danish Kaneria and when Pakistan took the second new ball he thrashed Shoaib Akhtar through the offside for a boundary. There was absolutely nothing that was worrying Ganguly and by 4:00 PM the Umpires decided to offer the light to the batsmen which was accepted. India ended the day’s play at 352 for 3 in 84.3 overs. Jaffer is in no mood of throwing it away, he is onto 192 (from 255 balls with 32 fours) and Ganguly on 17 (from 25 balls with 3 fours). If Jaffer decides to come out fresh tomorrow morning then for sure VVS Laxman’s epic 281 might well be eclipsed! For Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar managed to bowl ony 9 overs all through the day that too in three spells! Sohail Tanvir proved to be expensive getting thrashed away for 118 runs in 24 overs. Sami’s wicketless experience continues to haunt him and Danish Kaneria has been expensive too leaking 126 runs in 30 overs. It is now only upto the Pakistani batsmen to play long innings and save this Test Match, winning this from here is almost day dreaming!