Half-centuries from Misbah-ul Haq and Younis Khan saw Pakistan make a strong reply to India's first innings total of 626, on Day 3 of the third Test in Bangalore on Monday.
Captain Younis scored a brisk 80, inclusive of 12 boundaries, while Misbah was unbeaten on 54, as Pakistan posted 369 for five at stumps. They need another 58 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Salman Butt's fluent 68 gave Pakistan a fine start. He added 90 runs for the second wicket with Younis before he was caught behind off the bowling of part-timer Sourav Ganguly, with scored a magnificent 239 in India's first innings.
India lead the three-match series 1-0. They won the first Test in Delhi by six wickets, while the second in Kolkata ended in a draw.Morning session
Salman Butt, on 58, survived a very close appeal for leg before wicket
against Irfan Pathan in the 32nd over of the innings. The left-hander was struck on the pads to an incoming delivery and replays indicated the ball would have hit the stumps, but umpire Rudi Koertzen ruled him not out.
Pacers Pathan and Ishant Sharma toiled in the first hour despite maintaining a good line and length and trying to force the batsmen into mistakes. But the pitch hardly held any terrors for the batsmen and after ten overs from the seamers in the morning session, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was introduced.
In Harbhajan's second over of the morning, Butt hit a ball straight into Gautam Gambhir at short leg which the latter failed to hold on. But the batsmen wanted to ensure that Harbhajan didn't settle into a rhythm and Younis reverse swept him for a boundary in the 42nd over.
Ganguly's Test match just got better when he struck with the wicket of Butt. The left-hander was tempted to play at an out-swinging delivery, which he could only edge it behind for 68. He hit 13 boundaries in his 149-ball knock, adding 90 runs for the second wicket with captain Younis Khan.
He could have got another wicket two overs later when Younis (47) seemed to have edged one down the leg-side, but umpire Simon Taufel ruled him not out.
The Pakistan captain completed his half-century with a single off Kumble in the 54th over as Pakistan reached 166 for 2.
Harbhajan came on for his third spell and immediately Younis went after him. He hit him for a reverse sweep boundary again and two balls later smashed a short ball to the point boundary.
At lunch, Pakistan were 180 for 2 in 55 overs, with Younis unbeaten on 62, with the help of 10 boundaries.
The Indian bowlers found it hard in the morning session and, except for Ganguly, none of them looked like getting wickets. But as the day goes on the spinners will definitely come into play and the uneven bounce should aid them a great deal. The pitch is still good for batting and Pakistan will hope to continue piling on the runs.
Pakistan took time to get going after lunch, and only 13 runs came in seven overs after the break. However, the shackles were broken in the
63rd over when two boundaries were scored in a single over off Ishant.
In the next over, Mohammad Yousuf lofted Kumble over the cover region for a boundary as Pakistan scored 207 for 2 after 64 overs.
Harbhajan came on for a new spell, his ninth over of the innings, and
immediately Younis employed the reverse sweep for a boundary. It seemed to upset the offie a bit, as, after that, he kept firing it flat on the batsman's pads.
Younis tried the reverse sweep again off Harbhajan's first ball in the next over, but he did not connect and was bowled. The Pakistan captain scored 80 but let his team down with that reckless shot at a critical
juncture in the match. He hit 12 boundaries in 156 deliveries, but his dismissal left Pakistan at 221 for 3 in the 70th over.
At the start of the 71st over, Yousuf angrily walked towards Kumble at gully and exchanged a few words with him, but the umpires intervened and the matter was resolved before it could take shape. But Yousuf seemed to have lost his concentration after the spat and gifted his wicket away in the same over.
He lashed his bat out to a wide delivery from Pathan, but hit it straight to Yuvraj Singh at point for 24. Just like Younis, he let his team down with a shocking shot. Pakistan were reduced to 227 for four wickets.
A quiet period followed as both Misbah-ul Haq and Faisal Iqbal tried to
bring some stability to the innings. The runs dried up as both Pakistani batsmen were intent on preserving their wickets.
India, interestingly, had quite a good plan for Misbah. They blocked his leg-side shots with deft field placements on that side of the wicket. He could no longer take the liberty of flicking it through the mid-wicket region with the fielder in place and hence could score just 15 off the first 50 balls he faced, hitting just two boundaries.
At the tea break, Pakistan were 265 for 4 in 86 overs, still needing another 162 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Misbah was unbeaten on 17 from 52 deliveries, including two boundaries, while Iqbal was not out on 14 from 45 deliveries, with one boundary.
It turned out to be quite a good session for India as they picked two wickets, while giving away 85 runs in 31 overs. They will be hoping to pick a few more wickets before stumps and strive to impose the follow-on. But, once again, standing in their path is the impressive Misbah-ul Haq.
India had to wait for nearly 10 overs to strike after the tea break. It was the impressive Ishant Sharma, who got the breakthrough. He got the ball to bounce off a good length and Iqbal popped a catch to short leg.
It was his first Test wicket in just his second match and the Delhi youngster was delighted.
Iqbal was dismissed for 22 and India now sensed a chance of finishing the innings pretty soon, as Pakistan were reduced to 288 for 5.
However, that brought together the dangerous duo of Kamran Akmal and Misbah at the wicket. These two batsmen had rescued Pakistan from a position of no-hope in the second Test in Kolkata with a brilliant 207-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
The need of the hour was to stay at the wicket and both did exactly that, batting with utmost patience. They played with a straight bat and did not take any unnecessary risks, fully aware that there were no good batsmen to follow.
Misbah kept finding the gaps with relative ease and eased his way into the forties with a nicely guided boundary through third man off Ganguly.
The two batsmen brought up the 50-run partnership for the sixth wicket when Akmal drove Harbhajan through the off-side for a boundary. In the next over, Misbah played a delightful late cut off Kumble to advance to 49 as Pakistan reached 345 for 5 after 113 overs.
Akmal got going late in the day with two boundaries off Harbhajan's 22nd over, guiding Pakistan past the 350-mark.
Misbah completed his half-century, his second of the series, with a single on the leg side. It took him 150 deliveries to reach the landmark, hitting seven boundaries in the process.
At close on the third day, Pakistan were 369 for 5 in 117 overs, needing another 58 runs to avoid the follow-on.
A total of 283 runs were scored in 90 overs in the day for the loss of just four wickets.
It is indeed a batsman's wicket, as so far as only 15 wickets have fallen in three days for a total of 909 runs.
But all credit to the Indian bowlers as they tried hard through the day and were rewarded with four wickets. However, they will be disappointed by the number of extras conceded --- 70 in sum, including 31 byes, as wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik struggled down the leg side.
To win the match, India have to take another 15 wickets. Unless the wicket changes drastically, it is going to be a tough task.