Green-top may witness a cat and mouse game

Published: Monday, April 12, 2004, 19:57 [IST]
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Rawalpindi:India and Pakistan clash in the third and decisive Test match in Rawalpindi on a green-top wicket that promises an explosive slugfest between the archrivals.

The centre-strip at the Rawalpindi cricket stadium, home of Pakistan's fiery fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, is expected to have enough juice in it to make life difficult for batsmen on both sides.

"It will do a bit on the first morning but I think the hot sun will make it easier afterwards," said Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, who returns to the side after missing the first two Tests with a lower back injury.

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq agreed bowlers could have a field day on it.

"It may be better to bowl first on it," he said. "I expect my bowlers to do better than what they did in Lahore."

The 50th Test match between the archrivals will decide the current series after India won the opener at Multan by an innings and 52 runs and Pakistan drew level at Lahore with a nine-wicket triumph.

Pakistan have yet to find a seamer to back up Akhtar and Mohammad Sami following a spate of injuries which ruled out three contenders: Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul and Shabbir Ahmed.

Sami was declared fit to play after complaining of back pain two days ago, but a more serious back injury to Gul is a major blow for the hosts after his match-winning 5-31 at Lahore.

The toss-up is between Fazle Akbar, a four-Test veteran with 10 wickets who returns to the squad after three years, rookie Rao Iftikhar and all-rounder Rana Naveedul Hassan.

India, meanwhile, omitted opener Aakash Chopra to accommodate Ganguly, but were undecided whether left-hander Yuvraj Singh or the captain himself will open with Virender Sehwag.

"It's a tough call," Ganguly said. "If I have to open the innings I would do it for the team, but it is a one-off thing.

"I have done well in the middle-order and Yuvraj scored a century in the last game. It is hard on Chopra, but this is a game we have to win and plan accordingly. The motivation is to win a series, we have come so close in the past and it is something we look forward to achieving this time."

India, who have not won a Test series away from home since 1993, have also brought in left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra in place of Ajit Agarkar.

"I don't believe the toss makes a difference, the important thing is to play well over three to four days," Ganguly said.

"How we bat will count. We did that in Multan and won, but did not bat well in Lahore and lost."

Inzamam conceded second Test hero Gul will be missed but insisted he had the bowlers to beat India.

"This wicket will suit our type of bowlers," he said. "We are geared for a good battle out in the middle."

Of the seven Tests played at the Rawalpindi stadium, Pakistan have won three, lost two and drawn the remaining two.

Pakistan (from): Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Taufeeq Umer, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Malik, Rao Iftikhar, Fazle Akbar, Rana Naveedul Hassan.

India: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra, Anil Kumble.

Umpires: David Shepherd (ENG), Rudi Koertzen (RSA)

TV umpire: Zamir Haider (PAK)

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)

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