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Misbah-Akmal raise hopes of daring mission impossible

Kolkata, Dec 2 (UNI) Mishbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal stitched together a crucial unbroken 106 runs sixth-wicket partnership as Pakistan took tea at 256 for 5 still 161 runs short to save the follow-on against India at eden gardens here today.

At tea Misbah was unbeaten on 73 and Kamran played a perfect foil on 63 as they successfully negotiated the spin of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, to make unsteady yet reassuring steps towards the immediate target of 417.

Misbah, dropped on one, made full use of the life stroking his way to the second 50 of his career in just 64 balls studded with six fours. A man with improving reputation with every match, Misbah is already the crisis man for Pakistan, as he played with relative ease and showed if one applied himself there was no reason not to deliver. Undefeated on 73 at tea he had to his credit seven boundaries, hit all round the park.

In his company was Akmal on 63 who looked to have attached a prize to his wicket. He completed a fine fifty with six boundaries to his credit. The best thing about the duo is that they played the deliveries to their merit. Akmal completed his half-century pulling Munaf to the mid-wicket boundary. He took 107 deliveries to reach the eighth fifty of his career.

Meanwhile, desperate to get the breakthrough, Kumble introduced Zaheer Khan, Sachin Tendulkar from the pavilion end and then rotated Munaf Patel to the pavilion end.

Earlier, Pakistan went to lunch with Misbah-ul-Haq batting on 35 and Kamran Akhmal on two. In the morning session Pakistan scored 104, commencing on 50 for one, and lost four vital wickets to put themselves in a rut.

Pakistan began the day 50 for one and Salman Butt looked poised to be a thorn in the Indian flesh, till Harbhajan Singh was introduced in the 26th over of Pakistan innings. Salman was beaten in flight and was gone. Butt chose to off drive but got a outside edge and it was snapped up by Dravid at slip. Butt was gone for 42 that had six boundaries written in class. At 77-2, Pakistan innings looked like crumbling apart.

Harbhajan was on song as his deliveries both spun and bounced, leaving the Pakistan batsmen bewildered. In the 28th over he bowled a big off-break that went through Mohammed Yousuf's gates. Castled at six, Yousuf began his long walk back to the pavilion, as visions of a rearguard from the Younis-Yousuf pair were snuffed out.

Munaf Patel who was operating from the High Court end got into the act. Patel got rid of the danger man Younis Khan with an ordinary delivery, short and wide outside the off stump. Khan walked across and hung out his bat --horrible shot to say the least-- to induce a thick outside edge and M S Dhoni takes a dolly. Khan, who began on the overnight score of two, was gone for 43, that had five boundaries and a six to his name.

Kumble, brought himself on from the pavilion end, and made all his experience count against greenhorn Faisal Iqbal who was done in by the wrong one and was out scoring a duck. The ball landed outside off stump and broke back in to rap him in front of the middle.

Faisal was stretching forward but the bat was well outside the line --he didn't pick the googly-- and was caught right in front.

Pakistan were in the midst of a big hole here at five for 150.

They could have been in a worse position had Sachin Tendulkar held on to a wild swipe from Misbah on one run then. Tendulkar dropped him at midwicket off Kumble.


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Story first published: Sunday, December 2, 2007, 14:33 [IST]
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