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Turbanator back among wickets

Harbhajan celebrated his return to the Indian Test team with a 5-wkt haul, the 18th of his 56-match career.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2006 01:08 IST

Off-spinner Harbhajan celebrated his return to the Indian Test team with a five-wicket haul, the 18th of his 56-match career.

He finished with 5 for 147 as the West Indies were finally dismissed for 581 Saturday, the third day of the third Test at the Warner Park Stadium here.

Initially, it did not seem as if it would be a successful return. Harbhajan was clubbed for 42 in his first six overs on the first day Thursday, with West Indian opener Chris Gayle launching a pre-planned attack on him to dent his confidence.

Harbhajan had a slightly better day Friday, the second day, and Saturday, seemed to do what his captain wanted by bowling a containing line before lunch, conceding only eight runs in six overs at one stage.

But after lunch, it seemed Bhaji was in for punishment once again.

Marlon Samuels cracked him for two sixes in his first over after the break and Shivnarine Chanderpaul rubbed salt in the wound by hitting a third. The over cost him 19 runs.

But Harbhajan had the last laugh. He took a nice running catch to dismiss Samuels, of the bowling of Virender Sehwag, and then took the next four wickets himself.

The last two came in one over, and even though they were the wickets of tail-enders they delighted him.

First, Pedro Collins knew nothing about a "doosra" and just helped it on its way to Rahul Dravid at slip. The next ball, everyone on the field except umpire Brian Jerling thought last man Corey Collymore was out leg before.

Undeterred, Harbhajan followed that with another beauty to baffle and bowl Collymore. The ball floated in, pitched and broke back to go through between the batsman's legs and hit leg stump.

"On this wicket, there is no spin. It is difficult even to get a No.11 batsman out," Harbhajan said at the end of the day, with a satisfied smile on his face. "This is a batting paradise. Even I will score runs on this wicket."

What would have given Harbhajan, and the Indian team, an additional thrill was that Collymore's fall left Chanderpaul stranded on 97.

The left-hander has been a regular thorn in the flesh of Indian bowlers and was the dominant batsman the last time India toured the Caribbean.

He has a 70-plus average against India but, by his standards, has not been as successful in this series, having scored 24, 62, 30 and 54 in four previous knocks.

He wanted a big score. When he reached 50, he raised his bat and waved to his wife, sitting all alone in the special boxes atop the South Stands, on the opposite side of the player's pavilion.

He seemed well on his way to get his 15th Test hundred, and sixth against India, as he and Samuels took no risks in the pre-lunch session.

There was a sense of urgency as wickets fell quickly after lunch at the other end. He tried farming the bowling, refusing singles at the end of an over to retain strike himself and get to his century.

Harbhajan's two strikes in three balls thwarted him.