Laxman, Tendulkar steady India after Gambhir’s fifty

By Anand Philar, IANS,

Chennai : Set a target of 387, India were 213 for three at lunch in their second innings on the final day of the first cricket Test against England at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here Monday.

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Resuming at the overnight total of 131 for one, India lost Rahul Dravid (4) and opener Gautam Gambhir (66) before Sachin Tendulkar (27 batting) and V.V.S. Laxman (20 batting) guided the team to lunch without further damage.

With seven wickets in hand and needing a further 174 runs off 66 overs, the Indians are very much in the race. But so are England who will depend mostly on the dangerous Andrew Flintoff, who again troubled the Indians with fiery spells.

Dravid’s early departure, snicking Flintoff to Prior behind the stumps, was just the start England were looking for. Flintoff and fellow-seamer James Anderson were unlucky as Tendulkar and Gambhir repeatedly missed.

Tendulkar was cautious while the more aggressive Gambhir played a few attractive shots but flirted with danger, a weakness the England bowlers preyed on and eventually secured his wicket.

It was a far from convincing performance by the Indian batsmen. Not surprisingly, Gambhir fished outside the off-stump once too often at Anderson, to be smartly picked up by a diving Paul Collingwood at gully.

Thus, at 183 for three, England could be excused for entertaining thoughts of victory as the Indians were placed precariously.

Laxman almost immediately got into his stride with typical wristy drives on the onside and a particularly brilliant drive off Flintoff.

Skipper Kevin Pietersen opted for a pace-spin combination with Flintoff and Anderson alternating from one end and spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann operating from the other. The bowlers stuck to their task gamely to keep England in the reckoning.