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Sehwag scourge of home bowlers

January 22, 2006

FAISALABAD, Jan 21: One of the most immediate tribulations which confront Pakistan at the moment is how to prevent Virender Sehwag from scoring those big hundreds.

For the dashing Indian opening batsman it has become a ritual to blast the Pakistani bowling.

All four of his centuries in seven Tests against Pakistan have been in the excess of 150 with 173 being the lowest three-figure score.

For someone like Sehwag, who has minimal footwork, it is remarkable that he had been allowed the luxury of piling up huge scores so quickly with his predominantly bottom-handed stroke-making.

In this age of modern technology, opposing teams have done little to curb the right-handed Sehwag’s strong scoring shots such as the areas behind square on the offside and the whip off his hips where the Indian vice-captain is pretty well-versed.

According to experts of the game, Sehwag thrives on slow flat pitches as Pakistan have found to their dismay ever since the 27-year-old Delhi-born launched the ground-breaking series in Multan nearly two ago with an epic 309 off 375 deliveries.

That huge score knocked the stuffing out of Pakistan bowling and enabled the Indians to make history with their maiden Test series victory in this country.

But when Sehwag faced a slightly bouncy track in Lahore in the second Test of the 2003-04 rubber, he found the going tough as medium-pacer Umar Gul dismissed him for 39 on the opening day.

However, when the pitch lost its venom, Sehwag clobbered 90 in the second innings before Shoaib Akhtar had him caught behind. Shoaib then got rid of Sehwag with the first ball of the Indian innings in the final Test at Rawalpindi.

And when Pakistan crossed the border last season without Shoaib Akhtar, Sehwag greeted them with a 244-ball 173 in the first Test at Mohali. It turned out be the slowest century the Indian made against Inzamamul Haq’s team since it lasted nearly six hours.

That followed scores of 35 in the second innings of Mohali Test, 81 and 15 at Kolkata before Sehwag reached 201 off 262 deliveries in the first innings at Bangalore and 38 (run out) in the second as Pakistan went on to levelled the series with a decisive 168-run victory.

Sehwag then endured a lean period against minnows Zimbabwe and the struggling Sri Lankans before arriving in Pakistan for the latest series. And guess what happened? The hosts laid out a featherbed for the series opener at the Qadhafi Stadium.

The result was obvious. Sehwag just loves batting against Pakistan. By any standards, it was another special innings during the course of which he blasted his way the second fastest double century in terms of balls faced, reaching it off 182 balls.

Pakistan finally heaved a sigh of relief when he was caught behind trying to flick a Rana Navedul Hasan bouncer. His contribution in the stop-start but otherwise forgettable Lahore Test was 254 off just 247 balls, while striking no less than 47 boundaries and one six in trademark style of batsmanship.

If Pakistan aspire to win what has now become a two-Test series, they must have a certain gameplan to send back Sehwag swiftly.