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India on the brink of victory
Harish Kotian in Delhi | November 25, 2007 12:15 IST
Last Updated: November 25, 2007 17:00 IST
Sourav Ganguly [Images] delighted with a majestic knock of 48 to put India on the brink of victory by close on Day 4 of the first Test against Pakistan at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi on Sunday.
Chasing a modest target of 203, India scored 171 for 3 in 54.5 overs, 32 runs short, before bad light ended play early yet again.
Ganguly looked in supreme touch as he smashed eight boundaries in his 61-ball knock to lead India's victory charge. He was involved in an unbroken stand of 78 runs for the fourth wicket with Sachin Tendulkar [Images], who was not out on 32.
Earlier, Wasim Jaffer scored a fine 53, hitting eight boundaries off 81 deliveries, to give India a fine start.
Pakistan could add only 35 runs to their total on the fourth morning, their last five wickets falling in 17.2 overs, and were bowled out for 247 in the second innings.
Misbah-ul Haq played a fighting knock of 45 before falling to Sourav Ganguly while attempting a big shot.
Captain Anil Kumble again emerged India's most successful bowler, finishing with 3 for 68 in 27.1 overs.
Pakistan scored 231 in their first innings and India replied with 276.
Resuming the day on 212 for 5, Pakistan lost an early wicket when Kamran Akmal fell in the second over of the day. Akmal (21) went for a wide delivery from Zaheer Khan [Images] but could only hit it straight to Yuvraj Singh [Images] at point.
Sohail Tanvir became Zaheer's second victim when he top-edged a pull shot and was caught at short leg for 13 as Pakistan slipped to 229 for 7 in the 73rd over.
Misbah-ul Haq again faced the familiar role of having to boost Pakistan in the company of tail-enders. In the first innings, he and Mohammad Sami [Images] added 87 runs for the ninth wicket, but this time the Indians were better prepared and did not them off the hook.
Sourav Ganguly was introduced in the 83rd over and his magic worked again. The former India captain induced Misbah to play a big shot, which was taken by Dinesh Karthik, who ran backwards at long-on.
Misbah fell for 45 and it seemed with his wicket Pakistani hopes of garnering a big total had also disappeared.
Two balls later, Ganguly struck again, claiming the wicket of Mohammad Sami for 5. The batsman tried a huge slog across the line and ended up holing it straight to Wasim Jaffer, at square leg, who heaved a sigh of relief after catching it.
Another wicket fell off very next delivery, when Danish Kaneria was run-out without scoring, to end Pakistan's second innings.
Three wickets in four deliveries and Pakistan were bowled out for 247 in 83.1 overs, setting India a target of 203 to win the match.
For India, it all went to script as they claimed the remaining five Pakistan wickets for the addition of just 35 runs in 17.2 overs.
Zaheer was instrumental in triggering the collapse with his two-wicket burst at the start of the day, when he took the wickets of Akmal and Tanvir.
Ganguly underlined his utility with the ball as he claimed the important wicket of Misbah and followed it up that of Sami's.
Captain Anil Kumble again emerged as India's most successful bowler, finishing with 3 for 68 in 27.1 overs.
Set a modest target of 203, India got off to a bad start when Dinesh Karthik failed in the second innings too. As was the case in the first innings, Karthik fell caught behind off Shoaib Akhtar [Images] while playing at a wide delivery in the first over of the innings.
Wasim Jaffer (2 not out) and Rahul Dravid [Images] (0 not out) safely negotiated a few overs before lunch as India reached 3 for 1 in four overs at the break.
The hosts need another 200 runs to win the match and if the pitch holds good, like it did on the third day, they easily can. But, surely, Pakistan's bowlers, led by Shoaib, won't let India get them easily. Rest assured an interesting battle follows in the sessions ahead.
Jaffer started off well after the lunch break, hitting a boundary through the covers off Tanvir. He looked in pretty good touch, while Dravid was still to get into his stride. The former India skipper struggled for a couple of overs against Mohammad Sami, but then announced himself with a powerful boundary through the off-side in the 17th over of the innings.
As expected, once the ball got a bit old, it was easy for the batsmen. Jaffer slammed two consecutive boundaries off Sami in the 23rd over as India progressed to a healthy 72 for 1.
His two boundaries against leg-spinner Danish Kaneria through the mid-wicket region were also special as he just timed the ball through the region.
The Mumbai opener brought up his half-century when he smashed Shoaib through the off-side for a cracking boundary. It took him 80 deliveries and included eight superb hits to the fence.
However, he fell to the very next delivery, when his attempted pull was brilliantly caught by Salman Butt [Images] for 53. He put on 82 runs for the second wicket with Dravid before his dismissal in the 28th over, as India were reduced to 84 for 2.
The wicket fell just about the wrong time for India as Jaffer was looking at his best and scoring at a good run rate. It boosted Shoaib, who bowled a few testing overs to Dravid and new batsman Sachin Tendulkar. However, both batsmen safely played out the overs without taking any undue risks considering that the tea break was round the corner.
At the tea break, India were 89 for 2 in 32 overs, with Dravid unbeaten on 34 from 94 deliveries and Tendulkar not out on 1.
It was another productive session for India. They scored 86 runs for the loss of just one wicket. With another 114 runs needed, they will be hoping to get to the victory target of 203 without further drama.
Tendulkar scored a boundary in the first over after tea when he cut a short delivery from Sami through the off-side. However, India were dealt a big blow in the form of Dravid's wicket in the next.
It was Shoaib, single-handedly leading Pakistan's charge with the ball, who caused the damage. He produced a beauty to bowl Dravid for 34. The former India captain had no answer to a sharp in-swinging delivery from the Pakistan fast bowler as it sneaked through his defences and reduced India to 93 for 3 in the 34th over.
Sourav Ganguly played positively from the moment he stepped on to the crease. He even took on a short delivery from Shoaib and dispatched it through mid-wicket for three runs. He hit two boundaries in an over from Sami to race to 12 as the victory target fell below 100.
In the 40th over, he cut Shoaib through the off-side to quickly race to 19 off just 20 deliveries, including three boundaries.
While Ganguly was looking to play positively, Tendulkar held firm at the other end. The partnership was moving along nicely and India started inching closer towards the victory target of 203.
The two veteran batsmen brought up their 50-run partnership in the 49th over, with Ganguly having contributed 34 of those runs.
Ganguly creamed two delightful boundaries through the off-side to move to 46 and take India past the 150-mark in the 52nd over. Tendulkar followed it up with a couple of sweetly-timed boundaries through the leg-side in the next over from Sami as India's victory took charge.
That second boundary also took Tendulkar past Allan Border to second in the all-time Test run-scoring charts behind Brian Lara [Images].
Tendulkar tried an uppish cut shot over point which got the edge of his bat and flew over the slips off Sami to move to 32.
In the same over, the umpires offered the batsmen the light which they gladly accepted and walked back to the dressing room.
It was surprising though as India only needed another 32 runs for victory, but maybe the two batsmen wanted to guard against playing the pace of Shoaib and Sami in fading light.
At close on the penultimate day, India were a comfortable 171 for 3 in 54.5 overs.
Ganguly, who delighted with his strokeplay, finished unbeaten on 48 from 61 deliveries, hitting eight boundaries. Tendulkar prospered after a cautious start and was not out on 32 from 86 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries.
The unbroken stand of 78 runs in 21.3 overs for the fourth wicket between the two batsmen put the hosts firmly on the victory-path.
Ganguly, in particular, deserves special praise for the way in which he handled Shoaib and the other Pakistani pacers.