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Spinners keep India in the hunt
Harish Kotian in New Delhi | November 24, 2007 11:25 IST
Last Updated: November 24, 2007 17:11 IST
Spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh [Images] took five wickets between them to keep India in the hunt on day three of the first Test against Pakistan at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi on Saturday.
Pakistan ended the third day on a healthy 212 for 5 in 65.5 overs courtesy of Salman Butt's [Images] solid half-century. The left-hander, who made 67, gave Pakistan a fine start as he put on 71 runs for the opening wicket with Yasir Hameed [Images] (36).
However, India fought back through the spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, who took 3 for 55 and 2 for 51 respectively.
At close, Misbah-ul-Haq, was unbeaten on 29 while Kamran Akmal was not out on 21 as Pakistan stretched their overall lead to 166 runs.
Pakistan had scored 231 in their first innings and in reply India were bowled out for 276.
Resuming at 228 for six in 63.2 overs on the third day, both Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman kept a positive approach. Kumble, who scored a century in his previous Test in England [Images], looked completely at ease and his cracking boundary through the covers in the 69th over proved it all.
Kumble was getting better with each passing minute at the wicket. The duo brought up their 50-run stand when Kumble took 2 runs on the off-side in the 72nd over.
The veteran played fluently till he was done in by the extra bounce and turn from Kaneria in the 75th over. The Indian captain, who stayed at the wicket for 69 deliveries, added 54 vital runs for the seventh wicket with Kumble to help his team gain the lead.
Harbhajan Singh could not last long as he played a reckless shot to be dismissed by Tanvir in the next over. Harbhajan went across the stumps to try and play on the leg side but missed the ball and was bowled for 1.
With just two wickets in hand, the onus now lay on Laxman to take majority and help India swell their first innings lead.
Zaheer Khan [Images] slammed Kaneria for a huge six over long-on but perished off the very delivery in attempt to hit another big shot. With Laxman at the other end, the need of the hour was to bat with some common sense, but Zaheer did exactly the opposite and gifted his wicket away for 9.
Munaf Patel [Images] was dismissed leg before wicket by Kaneria attempting a rash sweep shot off the first ball he faced.
Laxman was left stranded on 72 as India were bowled out for 276 in 78.4overs. The Hyderabadi right-hander hit eight boundaries in his 72-ball knock and was instrumental in helping India gain a first-innings lead of 45 runs.
Kaneria finished as Pakistan's most successful bowler with a haul of four for 59 in 21.4 overs. Tanvir also chipped in with vital wickets to end up with 3 for 83 in 24 overs.
In the end, Laxman didn't get enough chances and strike to swell India's lead as they lost four quick wickets at the end for the addition of just 14 runs.
Post lunch session:
Pakistan openers continued the momentum after the break with Hameed hitting two consecutive boundaries off Patel in the second over after the break.
Kumble tried his level best rotating the bowlers around and even introduced part-timer Sourav Ganguly [Images] [Images], but none could make an impression.
Pakistan cruised to 61 for no loss after 20 overs, scoring at exactly three runs per over. Kumble bowled just one over before lunch and he let 15 overs drift after the break before bringing himself back into the attack.
And not surprising it was the veteran spinner who claimed the first breakthrough when he claimed the wicket of Yasir Hameed for 36. Laxman at silly point produced a brilliant reflex catch after Hameed had played a perfect forward defensive shot off Kumble.
However, Hameed had done his job, adding 71 runs for the opening wicket and it remained to be seen whether the middle order could take advantage of this solid start.
Butt was in form in the ODI series, having scored 252 runs in 5 matches, and he seemed to have carried that form into this match too. The pitch was by now the best for batting as Pakistan started to accelerate the scoring rate. Butt creamed two boundaries in a Kumble over to underline his dominance at the wicket as Pakistan crossed the 100-mark in the 34th over.
Younis Khan also got off to a good start, hitting three boundaries to cruise to 19 as Pakistan reached 108 for 1 in 35 overs at the tea break.
At the other end, Butt was looking good for a big score, having reached 47 from 102 deliveries, inclusive of eight boundaries.
Pakistan had now taken a 63-run lead and would now be keen to stretch it further after tea with the pitch at it's best for batting.
Except for Hameed's wicket, there was no joy for India in the session and once again the match changed course. It was Pakistan now who enjoyed the upperhand, but the way the match has gone so far it won't be a surprise if India would make a comeback.
Post tea session:
India struck in the fourth over after the tea break and once again it was the ever-reliable Kumble who delivered the goods. He got the wicket of Younis Khan, trapping him leg before wicket for 23 to send the Kolta crowd into frenzy.
Meanwhile, it was important that Butt make his stay count as he coasted to his half-century in 115 deliveries, inclusive of eight boundaries, in the 40th over.
Kumble resisted the temptation of bowling himself and Harbhajan in tandem and preferred to use pacers from one end, a tactic that seemed quite strange. The Pakistan batsmen had no real problems against the pacers but somehow Kumble kept Harbhajan waiting.
But finally, the off-spinner was brought after a gap of 17 overs and he struck with his very first delivery in the 46th over of the innings.
Mohammad Yousuf [Images] was beaten in the flight and hit a simple catch straight back to the bowler to be dismissed for 18 as Pakistan slipped to 149 for three.
Butt's splendid knock of 67 came to an end when he edged to Rahul Dravid [Images] at first slip after being beaten by Kumble's googly. He hit 11 boundaries in his 140-ball knock, but was guilty of throwing his wicket at the wrong time.
Three quick wickets in the space of 10 overs had suddenly brought back India in the contest. They were also helped by the fact that Pakistan's first innings top scorer Misbah-ul-Haq didn't come to bat at number six after being down with fever.
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik [Images] failed when his team needed him the most. He dragged a short delivery from Harbhajan on to his stumps to be bowled for 11 as Pakistan were left reeling at 161 for 5.
Misbah, on 1, got a lucky reprieve when a straight forward inside edge was grassed by Wasim Jaffer at short leg off Kumble's bowling. Misbah played forward and got the inner half of the bat, which lopped straight to Jaffer at a good height, but somehow he dropped it much to Kumble's annoyance.
To rub salt into India's wound, two overs later Misbah slams two huge sixes off Harbhajan over the midwicket boundary. The right-hander was not 100 percent and the only the way he was looking to score was through big hits. Another huge slog over midwicket against Kumble followed that went to the boundary to bring up Pakistan's 200 in the 63rd over.
There was no further drama before bad light ended play early with Pakistan on a healthy 212 for 5 in 65.5 overs.
Misbah, batting a flu, was unbeaten on a quick 29 from 34 deliveries, including two sixes and a boundary. Kamran Akmal also batted with great purpose to remain not out on 21 from 53 deliveries, inclusive of three boundaries. The two batsmen have so far put on 51 runs for the sixth wicket stretching Pakistan's overall lead to 166 runs.
For India, the spin twin of Kumble and Harbhajan brought them back into the match, claiming 3 for 55 and 2 for 51 respectively.
India must certainly be ruing Misbah's dropped catch by Jaffer, that saw Pakistan claw back after a few quick wickets to the spinners. That dropped chance in many ways gave Pakistan the momentum as they raked up 50 runs in 11 overs after that.
It was another intriguing day of Test cricket with no side being able to grab the initiative. So far, the match is poised on an even keel and once again the first session tomorrow would hold the key.