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Images: Laxman, bowlers put India on top

Last updated on: December 29, 2010 00:21 IST

The match hangs in balance



The low-scoring second cricket Test was tantalisingly poised after the third day's play with South Africa needing 192 more runs to win and India also fancying their chances of a remarkable series-levelling victory in Durban.

- Scorecard

Chasing a target of 303 for victory after India scored 228 in their second innings, South Africa were 111 for three when bad light brought an early end to an eventful third day's play which saw VVS Laxman miss his century by just four runs.

After three days of see-saw battle, the game is now heading for a nail-biting finish with both teams in a position to tilt the balance in its favour on a Kingsmead track which has shown signs of easing out.

With two full days left, India's hopes of levelling the series will largely depend on how well pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and spinner Harbhajan Singh, the chief wreckers in South Africa's first innings, bowl on Wednesday.

The experienced Jacques Kallis (12) and AB de Villiers (17) were at the crease when stumps were drawn on the third day. South Africa's push for taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series will largely depend on this pair.

Image: South Africa's Hasim Amla walks back to the pavillion after being dismissed by India's S Sreesanth during the second Test in Durban
Photographs: Reuters

Morkel removes Pujara early

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If the second day's play saw as many as 18 wickets fall, nine wickets tumbled on the third day today to set the stage for an engrossing climax.

Laxman's sparkling 96 and his vital 70-run partnership with Zaheer for the eighth wicket was largely responsible for India to gain an overall lead of 302.

Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 92 for four, Cheteshwar Pujara (10) was the first wicket to fall this morning when he failed to negotiate the extra bit of bounce from Morne Morkel and was bowled out.

Morne pitched the ball around off stump as Pujara looked to ride it but it bounced higher than he expected and after hitting his bat, trickled onto the stumps.

Captain Dhoni, who joined the action after Pujara's dismissal, eased the pressure as he drove past Morkel for a boundary in the 34th over, before picking up two more fours off Dale Steyn at square leg and backward point in consecutive deliveries.

Laxman also dealt in boundaries as he steered one off Morkel over slips to the fence.

Image: South Africa's Morne Morkel celebrates after dismissing India's Cheteshwar Pujara during a second Test

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Quick wickets put India on the back foot

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But Tsotsobe broke the partnership in the 42nd over, dismissing Dhoni when he induced an edge off the Indian skipper with an out-swinger as India slipped to 141 for six.

Harbhajan Singh also didn't last long and was sent back to the pavilion by Morkel in the first delivery of the 45th over. Morkel's away going delivery cramped Harbhajan, kissed the outside edge of his blade and landed safely in the hands of Jacques Kallis at second slip as India further slumped to 148 for seven.

At the other end, Zaheer Khan lived dangerously and was lucky to survive two confident leg-before-wicket appeals -- one of Steyn and the other of Paul Harris.

Laxman, in company of Zaheer, continued his good work and picked up two more boundaries off Paul Harris. He also picked up a boundary off Steyn when his inside edge got past a diving Boucher.

The Indians lost Zaheer Khan (27) immediately after the break with spinner Paul Harris breaking the vital 70-run partnership for the eighth partnership.

Harris got the ball to bounce sharply around off stump and Zaheer was a little late in playing the stroke and edged it to AB de Villiers at second slip.

Ishant Sharma, who joined the action after Zaheer's dismissal, hung around for 16 balls before falling prey to a short-pitched ball from Jacques Kallis.

Running out of parters, Laxman went for his strokes in a bid to complete his century and swept Harris to the fine leg boundary.

South African captain Graeme Smith brought in his pace spearhead Dale Steyn and the move paid dividends as the speedster accounted for the dismissal of Laxman, who was unlucky to miss his century by four runs.

Image: South Africa's Dale Steyn celebrates after picking up India's VVS Laxman duing the second Test in Durban

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SA openers off to a flier

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Chasing a target of 303 for victory, Graeme Smith started the chase on a flourishing note by smashing Zaheer Khan for two consecutive boundaries in the very first over. In the next over off Ishant, his partner Alviro Petersen clobbered him for a boundary.

Zaheer, who could not get any swing in the second innings, proved quite expensive in his first three overs as he repeatedly strayed the ball on the leg side.

The two South African openers seemed to be in no discomfort at all as they went about the task of providing a good start to the team.

The duo put on 63 runs on the board before Sreesanth provided the breakthrough by removing Smith (37), who mistimed a bouncer and offered a simple catch to Dhoni.

Image: South Africa's Graeme Smith plays a shot during the second Test against India in Durban

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SA hopes rest on Kallis and de Villers

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The balance tilted slightly in India's favour after the tea break as the visitors got rid of Petersen and Hashim Amla in quick succession to reduce the Proteas to 82 for three.

While Harbhajan accounted for Petersen (26) with Cheteswar Pujara taking a smart catch at short leg, Sreesanth got rid of the dangerous Amla (16) who played a poor shot and edged the ball to Dhoni.

The experienced Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers tried to rebuild the South African innings by playing cautiously but were quick to dispatch the loose deliveries to the boundary.

Image: Indian players appeal for a South African wicket duing the second Test in Durban

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