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Ganguly, Dravid steer India to strength

After dismissing Pak for 537, India pile on the runs to put themselves in command.

cricket Updated: Dec 11, 2007 17:31 IST

Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid put India on top after the top order stuttered in the second innings of the Final test against Pakistan. Sourav Ganguly was unbeaten on 63 while Dravid was on 35 as the umpired called close. India ended the day at 131 for 2, 220 runs ahead by virtue of a 89-run first inning lead.

Ganguly's batting was the highlight of the post-tea session as he looked positive right from the word go. His strokeplay was fluent and was filled with smooth strokes. The timing was exquisite and placement exemplary. He handled the spinners with absolute authority and Rahul Dravid played a useful second fiddle to the double-centurion in the first innings. He too came out with a positive mindset and started playing attacking strokes upfront. The duo added 100 runs for the fourth-wicket

The Pakistani bowlers looked lively initially, but as the Indian bowlers started scoring more fluently, the intensity started going amiss. Earlier in the day, Yasir Arafat gave Pakistan their second breakthrough of the second innings, when he trapped Wasim Jaffer leg-before for 18. He pitched it very full and the low bounce undoes Jaffer, who was caught plumb in line. Incidentally, this was the second time in the match when Jaffer has been trapped by Arafat leg before. India were 26 for 2 when Jaffer went.

India's second innings did not exactly get off to an auspicious start with, Gautam Gambhir cleaned up by Shoaib Akhtar for 3. Akhtar landed one outside the off-stump and it kept a bit low. The ball jagged back sharply, sneaking through Gambhir's defences. India were 17 for 1

Ishant Sharma produced a brilliant spell of fast-bowling to clean up the Pakistani tail, who lost 4 wickets for 12 runs. Pakistan were finally dismissed for 537, and as ever before, their best batsman on tour Misbah ul-Haq was left stranded on a superb character-filled 133. Pakistan still trail India by 89 runs with over four sessions of play still left in the Test match.

Misbah's innings was extremely special in its own way. His technique was immaculate and the temperament was superb, as he took Pakistan from a position of impossibility to one where they can tactically come back into the game. He adjusted very well against the spinners, especially Harbhajan Singh, who threw everything at him. At the same time, some of the shots he played were simply stunning to say the least. The manner in which Misbah handled Anil Kumble was very impressive too.

Danish Kaneria was the last batsman to be dismissed for Pakistan, when he could not avert a short one from Ishant, playing it back to the bowler. He got into an awkward position as he tried to play the bounce and go for the pull, but the ball being bowled short, hit him high on the bat and lobbed it right back to the bowler. That was Ishant's first fiver of his career.

Earlier, Shoaib Akhtar did not hang around on the wicket for long, as he became Ishant Sharma's fourth victim of the innings. Ishant bowled it short, the ball stayed low and it took Akhtar by surprise who just lobs it to Gautam Gambhir, who was waiting in anticipation at short-leg.

In his next over, Ishant struck again, this time yorking Mohammad Sami for 1. He went wide of the crease, and bowled an inswinging yorker, which Sami totally missed both off the hand and in the air. The ball tailed in brilliantly and rattled the stumps. Pakistan were 527/8 when Sami was cleaned up.

Ishant Sharma gave India their second breakthrough of the day when all-rounder Yasir Arafat played one on, just six runs short of his half-century. It pitches on a length and come back into Arafat, who was unsure whether to go forward or back to this one. It took a thick inside edge and crashes into middle and leg-stump. Pakistan were well past 500, crusing along at 525/7 when Arafat departed.

Earlier, Arafat and Misbah were involved in a brilliant 93-run partnership that helped Pakistan narrow the gap in the first innings. Arafat played the aggressor's role in the partnership scoring 44 off just 70 balls. He looked comfortable against the Indian bowlers, and handled the spinners with considerable ease.

India continued to toil hard on Day 4 as the tourists produced an impressive batting display, largely thanks to Misbah ul-Haq and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal. The duo featured in an extremely solid partnership, which helped Pakistan save the follow-on. Misbah was unbeaten on 99, just one short of his second hundred of the series, while Arafat provided him with solid support. They lost just the one wicket, that of Akmal for 65. Pakistan finished the session at 470 for 6.

Earlier, Pakistan began the day from where they left off last night with the two overnight batsmen, Misbah ul-Haq and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal consolidating their innings. Akmal brought up his 8th fifty of his career as Pakistan began the day on an extremely confident note. Misbah, in the meanwhile continued at his own merry pace, his innings filled with a tenacious and resolute character as before. His innings was filled with some brilliant strokes, including an exquisite cover drive off Harbhajan Singh.

However, Akmal's resolve and tenacity came to an end after Dinesh Karthik produced a brilliant stumping off Harbhajan. Going round the wicket to Akmal, Harbhajan flighted one outside the off-stump, luring Akmal into going for a big drive and Akmal fell for the trap, stretching forward and missing it completely. Karthik did the rest, as the batsman did not drag his feet behind the line. Pakistan were 432/6 when Akmal departed, having successfully avoided the follow-on a few overs earlier.