M A I N   N E W S

Test poised for exciting finish
Sirshendu Panth

Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick plays a stroke during the fourth day’s play of the second Test against Pakistan in Kolkata on Saturday.
Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick plays a stroke during the fourth day’s play of the second Test against Pakistan in Kolkata on Saturday. — Reuters photo

Kolkata, March 19
The second cricket Test between arch-rivals India and Pakistan was poised on a razor’s edge as Shahid Afridi cracked a blistering half century to provide a blazing start for the visiting team’s chase of a mammoth 422 to win.

Chasing an improbable target after India had declared their second innings at 407 for nine, Pakistan swung the momentum a bit in their favour as they raced to 95 for one at close on the fourth day.

India managed to rein in the high-flying Pakistanis when they had Afridi caught by captain Sourav Ganguly at short fine leg when he top-edged Anil Kumble in the penultimate over.

Afridi, who had fashioned the visitors’ memorable victory in the Chennai Test of the 1999 tour, was going hammer and tongs before succumbing to the guiles of Kumble.

His hurricane 59 included nine fours besides two sixes off Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan.

Opening batsman Taufeeq Umar played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection and added 93 runs for the opening stand.

Umar was batting on 29 with vice-captain Younis Khan yet to open his account at stumps.

India were, however, on a stronger footing after a record ton from Rahul Dravid and a gritty half century by wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick helped them set up a daunting task for Pakistan.

Dravid became only the second Indian and sixth ever to record two centuries in a match twice after cracking 135 while Kaarthick slammed an attacking 93.

The Indian innings today revolved around a 165-run fifth wicket partnership between Dravid and Kaarthick after skipper Ganguly was dismissed cheaply and Laxman retired hurt in the morning session.

Dravid, who spent a long time at 99, reached his 20th hundred in 88 Tests by playing Afridi to the point region for a single.

The stand came to an end after Dravid departed trying to hit Danish Kaneria over the ropes, but the ball landed in the hands of Asim Kamal at long off.

Kaarthick, who played confidently, hitting an array of delightful strokes, returned soon after as he attempted to sweep Kaneria, missed and was bowled around the legs.

But his innings was more than a strong support for the tiring Dravid and made up for the cheap dismissal of Ganguly and retirement of Laxman.

Laxman, hit by a Mohammad Sami delivery on the left eye-brow, came out to bat after Dravid’s dismissal and played some brave shots, including an inside out six off Kaneria.

The bowler, though, had the last laugh when Laxman stepped out to him again, was beaten and stumped for a valuable 24.

Earlier, Dravid, with a 110 in the first innings, became only the sixth batsman in the game’s history to twice score two centuries in a Test. He had earlier scored 190 and 103 not out against New Zealand at Hamilton in 1999.

Allan Border, Greg Chappell, Aravinda de Silva, George Headley and Herbert Sutcliffe are the other players to have achieved the feat before. Only Sunil Gavaskar has recorded twin hundreds three times in his career.

Dravid, who was unbeaten on 54 overnight, unleashed a series of delectable shots all round the park, much to the joy of over 60,000 spectators who gathered at the Eden Gardens to watch the match.

The day began with Dravid continuing to look solid. The ‘Mr Dependable’ of the Indian team disdainfully despatched pacer Abdul Razzaq to the ropes at extra cover before sending Kaneria to the deep third man fence.

Ganguly also got into the act and used his wrists well to pick up a boundary off Sami through deep fine leg.

But the Indian captain virtually threw his wicket away as he tried to pull Sami from outside the off-stump and only managed a top edge. Sami ran to short mid on and gleefully accepted the skier.

More trouble was in store for the Indians as the stylish Laxman was hit by a rising delivery from Sami and had to retire hurt after facing only five balls, with the team score reading 156 for 4.

Kaarthick remained composed from the outset. The 19-year old Chennai cricketer announced his arrival with a straight-driven four off Sami and followed it up by exquisitely driving Kaneria to the midwicket fence as 32 runs came in the first hour.

The Indian batsmen decided to force the pace after the tea break.

Laxman, who returned to the crease after Dravid’s dismissal, drove Razzaq past mid off for a boundary soon after resumption, before Pathan launched a severe assault on Kaneria, hitting the leggie for two sixes in separate overs.

The first went over long off, and the second over cover, bringing the spectators to raptures as Mexican waves became frequent in the galleries.

Laxman (24) then lofted Kaneria over the long off fence, but had to go back to the pavilion in the same over, stumped by Akmal as India became 377 for seven.

India lost two wickets in the next over by Razzaq with Harbhajan and Balaji getting evicted without bothering the scorer.

Pathan (38 not out; 55m, 30b, 3x4, 2x6) and Kumble (14 not out; 18 m, 13 b, 3x4) played briskly to put on 29 runs, before Ganguly made the declaration.


India (1st innings) 407

Pakistan (1st innings) 393

India (2nd innings)

Sehwag b Sami 15

Gambhir b Sami 1

Dravid c Kamal b Kaneria 135 

Tendulkar c Akmal b Razzaq 52 

Ganguly c and b Sami 12

Laxman st Akmal b Kaneria 24 

Kaarthick b Kaneria 93

Pathan not out 38

Harbhajan b Razzaq 0

Balaji c Akmal b Razzaq 0

Kumble not out 14

Extras (b-5, lb-5, nb-12, w-1) 23

Total (9 wkts declared, 104 overs) 407

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-23, 3-121, 4-154, 5-321, 6-331, 7-377, 8-378, 9-378.

Bowling: Khalil 12-0-64-0, Sami 23-5-82-3, Kaneria 34-7-123-3, Afridi 15-2-47-0, Razzaq 19-3-80-3, Younis 1-0-1-0.

Pakistan (2nd innings)

Umar batting 29

Afridi c Ganguly b Kumble 59

Younis batting 0

Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1, w-1) 7

Total (1 wkt, 20 overs) 95

Fall of wicket: 1-93.

Bowling: Pathan 5-1-23-0, Balaji 4-0-32-0, Kumble 6-1-17-1, Harbhajan 5-0-18-0. — PTI

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