Cometh the hour, Kamran the man. Since getting his first Test ton in March 2005 against India, it’s been thrice that Kamran Akmal has played fighting knocks under pressure to revive Pakistan.
A superb 109 in seaming conditions in Mohali came when the visitors chasing a first-innings lead of just over 200, had their top order back in the hut with a few runs still short. Pakistan went on to save the match. At home and again in seaming conditions in Karachi in February 2006, Akmal hit 113 after his team was six down with less than 40 on board. At the Eden, in front of the second Test’s best turnout so far, Akmal showed resilience yet again.
The conditions were very different here. The Pakistan top order, for the seventh time in the last five Tests, had been dismissed with less than 150 on the board. India’s first innings score of 616 for five declared made the need for damage control more acute. That too on a pitch which promised purchase to spinners in the first session and got slower and lower with time, making stroke-making difficult. But both Akmal and the in-form Misbah-ul Haq posted tons to put Pakistan 59 runs shy of the follow-on target.
“This knock is better than Karachi’s,” said the 25-year-old Akmal. “The wicket is helping the spinners a lot and batting was certainly more difficult than when India batted. Also the crowd was right behind them. The icing on the cake would be if we go on to save the Test,” said Akmal, who got out towards the end of Day 3.
“I am thankful to god that I have got 119. It is very satisfying. Yes, I could have hung on longer, at least played the day out but I guess god wanted it that way,” the wicketkeeper, who badly needed to perform with the bat after a run of ordinary form behind the stumps, said.
With smiles returning to the Pakistani faces for the first time after landing in the City of Joy, Akmal thanked Misbah, his partner in the fightback. “He has been playing well and I got tremendous support from him. He deserves a lot of praise.”
Both celebrated their centuries in similar fashion reminding one of Salman Butt’s after his unbeaten ton in the BCCI Platinum Jubilee match here in November 2004. But Akmal’s was slightly different.
The moment his cut off Munaf Patel crossed the point boundary, he threw down his bat, took off the gloves and was down on the ground for a short prayer.
He got up, hugged Misbah and was ready to face the next ball without acknowledging the crowd that sportingly applauded the brave effort. Misbah too said a prayer after pulling Anil Kumble to square-leg to bring up his hundred but did not forget to wave to the dressing room and the stands.
Akmal and Misbah put on 207 runs for the sixth wicket, the highest at Eden so far beating the 196 by Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels in 2002-03.