Pakistan stay in touch at Eden

Sachin Tendulkar fell to a umpiring error from Steve Bucknor in the dying overs of the day as Pakistan kept their chances of winning the Second Test alive following an earlier collapse.

Resuming the third day’s play on 273-2, a deficit of only 134, with Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana both unbeaten in three figures, Pakistani sights were set upon a significant first innings lead in the knowledge that they would have to bat last on an Eden Gardens track that has never seen more than 120 chased for victory, against the imposing Indian spin pairing of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

It was the seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji, however, who made the first breakthrough of the day when Youhana, having added only three to his overnight 101, shouldered arms outside the offstump and was rapped on the pads. Even with the early fillip, India made little further progress as Pakistani skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq joined Younis to add a further fifty for the fourth wicket, before the rot set in.

Irfan Pathan made what would prove to be his only contribution of the day’s play when Inzamam guided an unthreatening delivery to Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps, and Tendulkar removed Asim Kamal as Pakistan’s number six attempted to run a third. With the lower order exposed, the spinners moved in for the kill and the final five wickets followed for only 31 runs as India eked out a first innings lead that seemed incomprehensible hours before.

It was Kumble who made the first, and most important, of the slow bowlers’ incisions as he accounted for Younis Khan – who had made 147 by the time he outside-edged a leg break to VVS Laxman at second slip. Kamran Akmal, Pakistan’s saviour at Mohali, followed soon after as he skied Harbhajan to Tendulkar, loitering at mid on. Abdul Razzaq then became Kumble’s second victim of the afternoon, another outside edge into the slip cordon – this time to Rahul Dravid at first slip, via a cut shot and the wicket keeper’s gloves.

Mohammad Sami provided Harbhajan with his second scalp, another mistimed slog going no further than a close fielder, this time Sourav Ganguly taking the catch at short leg. The last wicket pair of Mohammad Khalil and Danish Kaneria added fifteen, to reduced the deficit to fourteen, but Khalil perished to Kumble – as had Sami and Akmal before him, swatting the ball to a fielder as Virender Sehwag hung on at mid-off to bring to an end the Pakistani collapse.

India’s early second innings was as unimpressive as Pakistan’s morning had been, with both openers falling early to Mohammad Sami, who threatened to provide one of his match-changing spells. First Gautam Gambhir was yorked, and then Sehwag swished unconvincingly outside off, only to deflect the ball back onto
his stumps. With Pakistan again starting to gain the initiative, Tendulkar and Dravid came together to prise it away once again.

The two experienced campaigners added 98 in 28 overs of fluid strokeplay, as both men approached half centuries as the light closed in over Kolkata. Tendulkar steered Abdul Razzaq to the point boundary to record his 74th score of fifty or more, but was beaten in the paceman’s next over as the ball swung away at the exact instant he fended at it outside his off stump. Razzaq’s enquiry to Steve Bucknor was convincing enough to wrongly persuade the Jamaican, standing in his hundredth Test, that the home favourite had made contact.

Whilst Dravid brought up his fifty two overs later, off the same bowler, and Ganguly joined him unbeaten as the light provoked stumps to be drawn, Tendulkar’s dismissal had both set the game back into the balance, and the conspiracy theorists into overdrive. With two days left, India have the slight edge of fielding fourth, but early success tomorrow morning could restore Pakistan to the box seat. It’s all to play for…

India 407
Rahul Dravid 110, Virender Sehwag 81
Abdul Razzaq 3-62, Shahid Afridi 3-80

Pakistan 393
Younis Khan 147, Yousuf Youhana 104
Anil Kumble 3-98, Lakshmipathy Balaji 2-81

India 133-3
Rahul Dravid 54*, Sachin Tendulkar 52
Mohammad Sami 2-45, Abdul Razzaq 1-19

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