Pakistan slid into deeper trouble on Saturday, allowing India to get to their highest-ever total against them on Indian soil and at the Eden Gardens. The score of 616-5 declared is awe-inspiring in itself and if a side is expected to chase on a wicket that has already begun to show signs of wear and tear, the batsmen can only be asked to keep faith.
After watching a few deliveries kick up from spots close to the wicket and given the turn expected on Day III, Anil Kumble sensed a chance and bowled in tandem with Harbhajan, who came into action two balls into the third over, early on. The skipper tasted success straight away by trapping Yasir Hameed leg-before when the openers looked to be joining the run feast. After playing out the day's last hour, Pakistan were 50-1.
Success may have eluded Danish Kaneria so far, but Kumble and Harbhajan are in a different league in home conditions. So, application will be the keyword when Salman Butt (26) and Younis Khan (3) resume. On a pitch that had nothing to offer apart from its slow nature, the need was a wicket-to-wicket line. With Pakistan's bowlers refusing to fall in line, the run feast was only a logical outcome. Thriving in benign conditions, not only did the Indian batsmen make the first innings total stand out, they also came up with personal bests.
Wasim Jaffer (202) took just eight minutes to post his double century, the last eight runs coming from fours off Shoaib Akhtar. The marathon stay of 374 minutes yielded 34 boundaries and came off 260 deliveries. Akhtar bowled more overs on Saturday but failed to impress except once when the ball kicked into Ganguly's chest and Hameed spilled the chance. With no assistance from the pitch, and the bowlers looking ordinary, Jaffer obliged by poking an away-going delivery from Sohail Tanvir. That brought Laxman and Ganguly together and the duo gave the holiday crowd, sparse by Eden standards, their money's worth. The latter came into this Test with an average of 26.92 but compensated for previous shortfalls by scoring his maiden ton on home turf.
Scoring freely — 97 runs came in the first session at over four an over — they wore down Pakistan by adding 163 for the fifth wicket. Ganguly scored almost half of his 102 runs in the V on the off-side. He was severe on Mohammad Sami and Kaneria, the duo contributing 55 runs to his total.
Ganguly reached the magic figure with a single to mid-off and celebrated by jumping and pumping his fists. The crowd was ecstatic and with congratulatory banners making an appearance all around, the illustrious son acknowledged by raising his hands and swirling the bat.
Like Jaffer, Laxman's unbeaten 112 carried on the momentum from Delhi. A comic moment was in store when a stumping against him was referred to the third umpire. He was ruled out but the decision was quickly reversed as the wrong button had been hit. Kaneria once again proved to be easy meat for Laxman who got 42 runs off the leggie. The touch artist was at his best and scored almost evenly on both sides of the wicket. After Ganguly’s dismissal, Dhoni joined in the party, hitting an unbeaten 50. Later in the evening, Dhoni and Zaheer, who limped out in his second over, visited a city hospital after complaining of uneasiness. They were discharged after a check-up.