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Partners in need - Akmal and Razzak

When Yousuf and Younis face a rare failure, it's not the end of the road for Pak, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 10:47 IST

When Yousuf and Younis face a rare failure, it's not the end of the road.

One can always bank on Akmal and Razzak to undertake damage control exercise and salvage Pakistan's sinking ship -- at least against India.

When facing the arch-rivals, these wonderful team men have not just done it once, but twice in last one year.

In March 2005, they managed to squeeze out a draw from a hopeless situation. And on Sunday, they may have even undertaken a massive match-winning partnership.

Mohali Magic 2005

March 11, 2005. The dying moments of the fourth day of the Mohali Test and Pakistan was in deep trouble at 243 for the loss of 6 wickets in their second innings.

They were only 39 runs ahead with just tail left when Kamran Akmal walked on to the crease. He, alongwith Razzaq, added 14 more runs and going into the fifth day, Pakistan were staring down the barrel.

March 12, 2005: A boisterous capacity crowd at Mohali was anticipating an easy win for India. Pakistan skipper Inzamam was so demoralized that he did not even watch the early part of the morning session.

But Akmal and Razzaq had other ideas. Indian bowlers, till then on top, suddenly saw the equation change. While Razzaq is a known big hitter, Akmal surprisingly outdid his senior partner.

The duo was breaking one milestones after another, and the match looked like slipping beyond India's reach. Akmal continued, hitting a brilliant 109 studded with 16 fours off just 154 balls.

By the time Balaji delivered a magic ball, it was too late in the day. Thanks to their partnership of 184 runs, smile was back on Inzamam's face. Pakistan had not only thwarted a very motivated home side, but had also discovered an able successor to the likes of Moin Khan and Rashid Latif.

After that tremendous partnership, and the first Test century of Akmal, the visitors declared at 496 for nine. A far cry from 10 for the loss of three wickets at one stage. India were left with a virtually impossible target of making 293 off 25 overs.

In that match, the minnows had stolen a march over their more celebrated partners. At Mohali, the much more accomplished pair of Younis and Yousuf had aggregated only 84 runs, just 13 more than Razzaq's second innings knock of 71 off as many as 260 balls.

A rock-solid Razzaq and aggressive Akmal gave Pakistan a renewed faith in their abilities after a disastrous home series in 2004.

Karachi Charisma 2006

January 29, 2006: The first day of a series decider can be very cruel. And the Pakistan top order realized this in the very first hour at Karachi on Sunday.

A sporting pitch showed glaring holes in their willows and a total collapse looked inevitable with the two Ys scalped for zeroes and the team reduced to 39 for 6 in the eleventh over. It was then Akmal joined forces with Razzaq.

It can not happen twice, the Indian bowlers must have thought. But it did, and exactly in the same fashion. With Dravid going all out for a kill, there were gaping holes all over which Akmal's blade could not have missed. Razzaq was once again a sedate partner, but slightly more enterprising than in his Mohali's knock.

The duo kept the run-rate going and at lunch, the partnership had added 62 runs in just 14.3 overs. At 101 for six Pakistan could breath easy.

The partnership eventually resulted in 115 runs off just 160 balls, with three extras. With Indian bowlers sticking to the off-stump line, most of their partnership runs were milked from the off-side, with cover alone accounting for 42, or 1/3 of their total. Akmal and Razzaq made over 70 per cent of their runs in boundaries.

The 7th wicket partnership
How runs came at Karachi

Dot BallsOnesTwosThreesFours

This repeat resistance in less than a year could once again prove to be the difference between the two sides. But this time, a draw will certainly not be enough.. Indian top order collapse may have renewed hopes of another series win over the arch-rivals. Once again Pakistan may have done a Houdini act.

First Published: Jan 30, 2006 01:54 IST