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India look to wrap up series against injury-hit Pak

India will look to clinch a Test series win against Pakistan on home soil after 28 years as they go into the 2nd Test here on Friday.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2007 14:53 IST

India will seek to clinch a Test series win against Pakistan on home soil after 28 years as they go into the second cricket Test here tomorrow with their arch rivals grappling with fitness worries over some key players.

After losing the first Test by six wickets, the visitors have been laid low by a spate of injuries ahead of the crucial game at the Eden Gardens which they need to win to keep themselves afloat in the three-match series.

While paceman Umar Gul has already been ruled out of the match, captain Shoiab Malik and temparamental fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar were doubtful starters for the game.

The Pakistan team management has decided to wait till tomorrow to decide on the playing eleven but indications are that the captain may not be fit enough to take the field. In case Malik is ruled out, Younis Khan will lead the team.

The Indians, on the other hand, have no such problems and will hope to keep the momentum going in their bid to win the Test series as well.

If the Indians manage to win the match, it will be their first series win on home soil against their traditional rivals in 28 years -- the 2-0 win in 1979-80 being their last triumph.

Anil Kumble and his teammates are on a high after putting up a combined effort that shaped their emphatic six-wicket win in the Delhi Test with the skipper himself leading from the front with good performances in both the innings.

In contrast, Pakistan look a demoralised lot. In the first Test, their batting failed to come good, the fielding looked sloppy, and save 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhar, the bowling lacked teeth.

But what is surely giving sleepless night to the team management is the indisposition of several players. Apart from Akhtar and Malik, seamer Mohammad Sami and in-form middle order bat Misbah-ul-Haq are also unwell.

Pace spearhead Shoaib, who had to be admitted to a local hospital following a chest infection, was discharged last evening.

Malik, who sprained an ankle, continues to limp, and has been skipping practice.

"The team physio will assess their condition during the day, and by the time of the team meeting this evening, we will know if they are available," said a team spokesman.

Misbah and Sami both have throat infection, but the team management was hopeful they would recover before the match.

The Indians, on the other hand, have no such fitness concerns. The hosts' batting looks rocksolid, with the presence of seasoned pros like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V V S Laxman.

The quartet have together amassed more than 30,000 Test runs and each of them played important parts in setting up India's victory in the Delhi Test.

With the Eden Gardens likely to see a good spectator turnout, local hero Ganguly's adrenaline must be pumping high as this match could well be one of the last chances for the ageing warhorse to score a Test ton before his home crowd.

Ganguly, who would be playing his eighth Test at the Eden, has admitted several times in the past that the failure to crack a hundred on the ground remains one of the sore points in his otherwise glittering career.

In order not to disturb a winning combination, the Indians may choose to retain the same eleven that did duty in Delhi. If that line of thinking persists then Ganguly may once again be called upon to add to the medium pace might of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel, with Harbhajan singh partnering Kumble in the slow bowlers' category.

Pakistan would be heavily relying on the batting prowess of Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, both of whom scored hundreds in the previous meeting between the two sides on this ground in 2004-05.

Indians also have happy memories of the match. Not only did they emerge victors, but two Bangaloreans also came up with superlative perfomances.

While Dravid reached three-figure marks in both innings, Kumble finished with a match haul of 10 wickets.

Kumble could again be relishing to bowl on the strip, which has only a hint of grass. From the look of the track, it seems the bounce could be uneven, with the spinners likely to get assistance from the fourth day.

Head-to-head, the two sides have played half a dozen Test matches on the ground, with four of them petering out into draws. Pakistan won the Asian Test Championship match in 1998, while India tasted success in 2004-05.

First Published: Nov 29, 2007 14:45 IST