Kotla Test is tantalisingly poised after third day

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

New Delhi : The Kotla Test is in the hands of spinners. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh gave India a fair chance of winning the first Test by pegging Pakistan back to 212 for five in the second innings after the home team had gained a 45-run first innings lead, thanks to V.V.S. Laxman’s unbeaten 72, on the third day Saturday.

Support TwoCircles

Salman Butt’s 67 helped Pakistan come back into the game and when play ended earlier than scheduled for the third day running – 7.1 overs were still to be bowled – the visitors were 212 for five in the second innings.

With the last recognised batting pair, Misbah-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal at the crease, Pakistan are 167 in front and again the first session Sunday will provide a clear picture as to which way the Test is headed.

Pakistan owe to Butt’s 67 (140 balls, 11x4s) and his good opening stand with Yasir Hameed for keeping them in a fighting position. At 149 for two, the visitors looked well set to leave India chasing a challenging fourth-innings score.

However, skipper Kumble and Harbhajan pulled India back into the game in the post-tea session and if Misbah had not been reprieved by Waseem Jaffer when the first-innings top-scorer was on 10, Pakistan would have been in serious trouble. Having escaped, Misbah attacked Harbhajan to hoist him for two sixes and saw the day through with Kamran 21 (53 balls, 3×4). Misbah was on 29 (34 balls, 1×4, 2×6)

Earlier, replying to Pakistan’s first-innings total 231, India scored 276, leaving Laxman 72 not out (135 balls, 8x4s) stranded as Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel followed Kumble in a hurry playing reckless strokes.

Leg-spinner Danish Kaneria captured four wickets while left-arm deceptive pacer Sohail Tanvir bagged three.

With the spinners coming into play more, the Test is tantalisingly poised with the close-in fielders playing an important role as a lot of nicks and edges are expected to come their way.

While a lot will depend on how quickly Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh can wrap up the Pakistan innings, Danish Kaneria will play a big role when India bat in the fourth innings. And for Kaneria to buy his wickets, Misbah and Kamran will have to add a few more on the fourth morning.

Resuming at 228 for six, with Laxman at 57 and Kumble on seven, India added 34 more runs the seventh wicket partnership was broken by Kaneria. The Karachi spinner deceived Kumble (24, 69 balls, 3x4s) with a leg-break and induced an edge to Younis Khan at first slip.

In the next over, left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir removed Harbhajan’s leg stump to make it 263 for eight. Kaneria then dismissed pacers Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel off successive balls to signal the end of India’s first innings for 276 – a first-innings lead of 45. Kaneria can complete a split hat trick if he takes a wicket with the first ball in India’s second innings.

Laxman remained unbeaten after scoring the 30th half-century in his 84th Test. It was an innings full of wristy, delicate and well timed strokes.

Like Kumble in the first innings, his counterpart Kaneria also bagged four wickets for 59 to be the most successful Pakistani bowler. Tanvir took three wickets, Shoaib Akhtar two while the other pacer Mohammed Sami went wicketless.

In Pakistan’s second innings, Hameed’s (36, 79 balls, 5x4s) was the only wicket the Indians managed in the post-lunch session, caught splendidly by Laxman at silly point, plodding at Kumble.

Left-handed Butt, showing fine temperament and nimble footwork, stroked the ball well as he added 41 for the second wicket with Younis Khan before the latter, who has been a thorn in India’s flesh since 2004 when the cricket relations between the two countries were restored, fell legbefore to Kumble.

Mohammed Yousuf walked in next and survived the first ball with a French Cut sneaking past the stumps. But he was soon consumed by off-spinner Harbhajan. An attempted cover drive ended up as a return catch.

Butt followed Yousuf, caught at slip by Rahul Dravid, as he tried to drive a Kumble googly.

This was the 50th catch that Dravid had taken off Kumble’s bowling. They have become only the third bowler-fielder combine, excluding wicketkeepers, to achieve the feat. Only Muttiah Muralitharan – Mahela Jayawardene (63) and Shane Warne-Mark Taylor (51) duo are ahead of the Bangaloreans.

Captain Shoaib Malik’s poor run on the tour continued into the Test. To add to his first-innings blob, Malik could add only 11 before playing on to Harbhajan.

In-form Misbah, who did not field in the entire Indian innings due to illness, came in next to join out-of-form Kamran and the pair stayed till stumps, adding 51 runs for the sixth wicket.


Day Three, First Test, India vs. Pakistan, Ferozeshah
Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Pakistan (1st innings): 231
India (1st innings, overnight 228/6):
Wasim Jaffer lbw b Akhtar 32
Dinesh Karthik c Akmal b Akhtar 9
Rahul Dravid b Tanvir 38
Sachin Tendulkar run out (Akmal/Mohammad Yousuf) 1
Sourav Ganguly b Tanvir 8
V.V.S. Laxman not out 72
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Akmal b Kaneria 57
Anil Kumble c Younis b Kaneria 24
Harbhajan Singh b Tanvir 1
Zaheer Khan c Akhtar b Kaneria 9
Munaf Patel lbw b Kaneria 0
Extras: (byes 11, leg byes 8, wide 1, no balls 5) 25
Total: (all out in 78.4 overs) 276

Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Karthik, 4.2 overs), 2-71 (Jaffer, 21.3), 3-73 (Tendulkar, 21.5), 4-88 (Ganguly, 25.2), 5-93 (Dravid, 27.5), 6-208 (Kumble, 56.2), 7-262 (Kumble, 74.2), 8-263 (Harbhajan, 75.1), 9-276 (Zaheer, 78.3)
Shoaib Akhtar 16 2 44 2 (1nb)
Sohail Tanvir 24 5 83 3 (3nb)
Mohammad Sami 17 1 71 0
Danish Kaneria 21.4 3 59 4 (1w)

Pakistan (2nd innings):
Salman Butt c Dravid b Kumble 67
Yasir Hameed c Laxman b Kumble 36
Younis Khan lbw b Kumble 23
Mohammad Yousuf c and b Harbhajan 18
Shoaib Malik b Harbhajan 11
Kamran Akmal batting 21
Misbah-ul-Haq batting 29
Extras: (lb 6, nb 1) 7
Total: (for five wickets in 65.5 overs) 212

Fall of wickets: 1-71 (Hameed, 25.1 overs), 2-114 (Younis, 38.4), 3-149 (Yousuf, 45.1), 4-155 (Butt, 48.6), 5-161 (Malik, 53.2)
Zaheer Khan 11 2 32 0 (1nb)
Munaf Patel 9 1 48 0
Anil Kumble 20.5 7 55 3
Sourav Ganguly 8 2 16 0
Harbhajan Singh 15 4 51 2
Sachin Tendulkar 2 0 4 0

Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Billy Doctrove (West Indies) Third umpire: Suresh Shastri (India)
Fourth umpire: Harnarain Singh Sekhon (India)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)